Need to keep the kids busy this summer? Don’t want them to fall behind in school next fall? The Mansfield/Richland County Public Library’s (MRCPL) summer reading program is the perfect way to do both at the same time.
Julie Sapp, a first grade student at Mansfield Springmill STEM Elementary, and Fenton Cobb, a kindergartner at the same school, are using the Summer Library Program to make the transition into the next grade easier in the fall.
“I like to read because it helps me learn, and it reminds me of school in the summertime. And I love school,” said Julie.
When asked why he enjoys reading Fenton said, “I love reading because it teaches me new things.”
Julie and Fenton are not just looking forward to all of the books they will read this summer; they are also very excited for the various children’s programs MRCPL offers as part of the summer reading program. Some of this year’s headliners include Akron Zoo animal ambassadors, an astronaut, and a magician.
Julie is most looking forward to the weekly scavenger hunts around the library, while Fenton is excited for the rocket-building program.
Their favorite things about the library, though, are not building rockets or hunting for clues. Their favorite things about the library are the books.
“Everywhere you go there’s books and you can take all the books you want and read them,'' said Fenton.
Springmill STEM does not have a library in the school, so the school partners with MRCPL’s Mansfield branch to keep their students reading. Each child has their own library card, and once a month, the students visit the library as a class. They are free to check out any book they like, and they bring it back on their next visit.
Fenton’s favorite genre is historical books for children because he enjoys learning about the past. Or, in his own words, “I like to read about stuff that happened during stuff”. Julie most enjoys reading with her parents, so she enjoys reading Mommy & Me books with her mother.
By reading over the summer, these children are better preparing themselves for the next school year. Their principal, Regina Sackman, knows this firsthand.
Sackman used to be an employee at MRCPL’s Mansfield Branch in the Children's Department. It was then that she saw how much reading greatly benefits children. Now, as an elementary school principal, Sackman sees that in her students every day.
“Reading is like any other skill: practicing everyday improves reading skills,” said Sackman. “When students select the books they read, they foster that love of reading. This develops the habits and passions of lifelong readers, who become lifelong learners. Their futures are unlimited. That all happens just by opening a book.”
Sackman also noted how important the summer months are for reading, especially for younger children.
“Students that don’t read over the summer have what we call a ‘summer slip’. If a student that finishes first grade doesn’t read over the summer, their reading skills will slip back. Then, at the beginning of their second grade school year, we have to redevelop those skills that they learned in first grade. The children that read over the summer don’t slip at all; they keep growing and developing their reading skills,” she said.
Sackman also stressed that parents don’t need to designate a large portion of their day to making sure their children are reading.
“Even five minutes a day makes a tremendous difference. The more children read, the better that difference is, but it can be such a short time to make a powerful impact,” Sackman said.
MRCPL also recognizes that the summer months are busy for families, and that it may be difficult to come in once a week and read for hours each day. The summer reading program has adapted to these needs.
“The library does a great job of changing things up based on community and family needs to keep kids reading and engaged over the years. They pay attention to these needs and how they can adapt and change with programming and materials they offer,” Sackman noted.
The summer reading program does not have a required number of visits necessary to complete the program. Their activities card used to track a child’s progress through the program also includes more than just reading. Katie Gatten, the Branch and Youth Services Administrator for MRCPL, explained why the library has made this change over the past few years.
“The children complete five activities on a sheet, and they turn that sheet in for a prize. There are a variety of activities on each sheet because kids learn differently, and we want to cater to each individual child’s learning needs. The activities include reading, writing, drawing, and different types of playing. These all have to do with the practices of reading and will grow reading skills,” said Gatten.
To cater even more to each child’s needs, the children’s program has been split into two age and development groups: early literacy and the children’s program.
The early literacy program is designed for children preschool age and younger, and it focuses on children’s earliest activities that will help their reading skills grow and develop. Singing, talking, playing, reading and writing are all aspects of early literacy for children and are reflected in the activities for the early literacy program.
In the children’s program, the activity sheet includes reading, playing board games, reading graphic novels and drawing.
Once the children complete the program they will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize, and the library has no shortage of amazing prizes kids are sure to love this year. Grand prizes for the children’s program include lego and science kits. The science kits come complete with a telescope, binoculars, and a microscope. Grand prizes for the early literacy program include play and explore rockets and little tikes activity sets. The prizes go along with this year’s Outer Space theme. Each library location will have one winner.
MRCPL expects to have thousands of children participating in the summer reading program this year. Last year over 3,600 children took part in the free program across the county, and they expect those numbers to only grow this year.
Gatten is thrilled with the past numbers because of how greatly the program benefits children. “It’s important for kids to read anytime because it helps them learn and grow, but reading is especially important over the long summer break,” she said.
The library also expects enrollment to be large for their teen and adult summer programs. These programs have dramatically expanded over the past few years.
Grand prizes for the teen program include a laptop, nintendo switches, and a gaming WR headset. The teen program also has midpoint prizes, which include wireless beats headphones and fitbits. It’s also easier than ever for teens to participate, as activities include reading, recommending books and movies to friends, and simply following the library on social media accounts.
Grand prizes for adults include an Amazon Echo Spot and a family membership to Cosi. Additionally, if adults visit all nine locations over the summer, they will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card to Cinemark. If adults complete the entire bingo activity sheet, they will be entered to win a $100 amazon gift card.
The summer reading program kicks off June 3 and will run through July 27th. You can sign up yourself, your kids and teens at any of the local MRCPL libraries (find your location).
Given this year’s outer space theme, Julie would like everyone to proceed with caution. “You might fall into a black hole in your imagination!”