Summer reading: Relax, learn and have fun

Steven Smith is the interim director of the King County Library System:

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 to gear up for our annual Summer Reading program, which kicks 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.

And of course, there will be lots of reading! Amidst the fun, an important facet of Summer Reading is creating opportunities for continued learning and engagement for children. Research has shown, time and again, 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 five 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.

KCLS has also bolstered its efforts to keep teens engaged in learning with age‐appropriate reading recommendations and activities aimed to inform and inspire. Last year, the number of teens who turned in summer reading logs increased 32 percent, many of whom were likely motivated by the chance to win an Apple iPad as grand prize.

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, but 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.

So get ready for a summer of fun and reading with KCLS! For more information on Summer Reading programs and activities near you, visit www.kcls.org/summer-reading.