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Encouraging kids to pick up a book this summer

Participants in the TD Summer Reading Club race boats that they constructed themselves at Elmira Branch Library on Tuesday. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

Keeping kids active extends beyond the physical. That’s certainly the case with the TD Summer Reading Club, which aims to keep their brains in gear through the extended break from school. That helps avoid the ‘summer slide,’ a phenomenon which results in the loss of some academic skills and knowledge over the course of the three-month holiday.

“We encourage kids to read whatever they choose during the summer,” said Kim Krueger-Kischak, community connector and a coordinator of the program. “For some, that’s picture books, for others it’s novels, for others it’s nonfiction. Sometimes it’s magazines; sometimes it’s online reading. Our goal is to keep kids’ brains active throughout the summer and show that they can learn in different ways.”

The Elmira Branch Library is just one of the 2,000 public libraries that deliver this program. Anyone can participate; however, the age of participants generally ranges from 2-13 years old. There is a tracking system used to record the amount of reading a participant has done. There are also prizes given out to dedicated readers, such as Chapters gift cards. The prizes rewarded are all connected to learning.

“In the past, sometimes we counted the number of books that kids read,” explained Krueger-Kischak. “And that was fine, but we know that some kids read faster, and other kids read slower. And so we thought to count the amount of time read is a bit more reflective of being respectful to everyone’s reading style. So now we’re tracking it by time. So for every hour that kids read, they get a little ballot to put in the draw. It’s not ‘oh you have to read for an hour.’ It’s just ‘when you do that, that’s what happens.’ But it’s more ‘great you’re reading!’ And that’s really important.”

In addition to reading, there are special events hosted periodically to encourage learning. The events are connected to the acronym STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, all of the topics they aim to teach to children.

For example, there was a Tinker Truck event at the Elmira library on July 24, which focused on the science, technology and engineering categories of the acronym.

“So it’s just taking kids through the design process,” explained Holly Smith, library coordinator. “So he brought in corks, and popsicle sticks and elastics. And a small animal, which children get to keep, as well. And so they design a boat. Some of them have started off as just very, very simple designs, tried it out, and realize that it flips, or doesn’t float the way they thought it would. Then they build it stronger or differently, and try again. Some kids have been out here since we opened at 10, determined to get it right.”

“There are different levels of science and technology that are brought in,” added Krueger-Kischak. “They may not even realize that they’re learning. We’re there to prompt them and ask questions and help with some of that learning. But it’s a pretty fun way to learn. “

Other reading club activities include a Star Wars-themed event during March Break, a face painter, a scavenger hunt, water stations, and a live singer. In addition to themed events, there are workshops available for all ages.

“We also have some special workshops,” said Krueger-Kischak. “They’re all free. Kids can come – there’s different ages, some for babies and their families, some for school-age kids as well. Where we’re trying out stuff with technology, we’re doing some activities with magnets, doing activities with art and printmaking, we also did stop-motion videos. So that kind of stuff.”

Other programs include Explorers Unite, where families come in together and explore different interactive activities. They also have their summer passport contest.

“We’re encouraging anyone who’s interested to grab a passport from the library and then visit our ten branches,” explained Krueger-Kischak. “And then we have four pop up locations as well. Just to get people out to see what the library looks like across the region. Every time they get a stamp, they’re part of the contest; they’re entered for draws and things like that.”

Anyone interested in learning more information can visit TD Summer Reading Club 2018. 

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