It seemed like winter was longer than usual this year, but it’s behind us now. And with the change of seasons — and warmer days — it’s almost time for summer reading.
All of us at King County Library System are excited for our annual Summer Reading program, which kicked off June 1 and runs through Aug. 24. Our theme this year, “Build a Better World,” is meant to inspire everyone to join the fun, no matter what age. Kids, teens, adults and families will enjoy programs ranging from art and science workshops, concerts, magic shows, author presentations and special events, including the return of Summer Reading in the Park, so popular that it has grown from four locations last year to 12 locations this year.
Amidst the fun, an important facet of Summer Reading is creating opportunities for continued learning and engagement for children. Research has shown the importance of reading over the summer so that students don’t lose academic ground when they start back to school in the fall. Avoiding the “summer slide” is a critical component for educational success, especially for students from lower-income communities. That is why we find ways to connect kids with the library all summer long.
Last year, more than 33,000 children, age 5 to 12, registered for Summer Reading, filling out reading logs and earning rewards along the way. This year, for instance, KCLS is offering free tickets to the Woodland Park Zoo, as well as other incentives to keep kids reading throughout the summer.
In partnership with local food banks and community service volunteers, KCLS libraries will once again host “Summer Meals for Youth,” a program that provides healthy meals and snacks for school-age kids who would otherwise receive free-and-reduced lunches during the school year. The summer meals program not only fills a critical nutrition gap for many children in our community, it drew nearly 9,000 students to various library programs last summer.
In 2016, more than 3,000 kids were transported to libraries for summer learning activities as part of KCLS’ Summer Busing program. And Mobile Services staff visited several YMCA day camps where kids got to choose a book for free, thanks to the KCLS Foundation that provided the funding for the books.
I’m sure many of you love reading all year long, as I do particularly enjoy taking advantage of the longer daylight hours to immerse ourselves in a good book during the summer. My own children participated in KCLS’ summer reading programs throughout their childhoods, and I firmly believe it encouraged them to become the avid adult readers they are today.
Stephen A. Smith is the interim director of the KCLS.