In 1930, the Los Angeles Public Library’s summer reading program was conceived as a way to encourage children—not tied to farm work—to continue reading during their summer vacation. Today, although the program is more urban, it still has the same mission: to foster literacy and learning when students are out of school. Beyond improving reading proficiency, the program promotes reading for pleasure and introduces students to the Library’s many resources such as literature, early literacy workshops, educational programming, and free Internet.
For nine weeks this summer, over 50,000 local students took part in the three areas of the expanded summer reading program tailored to different age groups. New themes are introduced each summer to expand students’ contexts for reading. From “Dream Big – READ” for children ages 0 to 4 and 5 to 10, to the teen’s theme of “Own the Night,” the programs this summer offered dynamic “nocturnal” activities such as astronomy lessons and creating dream-catchers to make reading fun.
We checked-in with Eva Mitnick, the Acting Manager of Youth Services who has been a children’s librarian for over 23 years on this summer’s reading programs.
How do you see the students benefiting from these programs?
Eva: It has been proven in study after study that when kids and teens read during the summer months, they don’t suffer a “summer slide” in their reading skills. And what better way to encourage kids to read than to let them read whatever they want, for the pure pleasure of it? Comic books, joke books, magazines – it’s all good.
When they join the Summer Reading Club, kids and teens feel part of a community of readers and library users, which can be an important motivation. Another motivation for reading are the prizes kids can earn; every child and teen can earn a free brand-new book.
And finally, every library offers fun programs ranging from craft activities, to magic shows, to manga workshops to entice and entertain kids and teens who are new to the library as well as regulars. After a magic show, librarians always find that every single magic book has been checked out.
What are some of your favorite summer memories?
Eva: It is so touching when children come up to the desk to proudly show us how much they have read, or when parents tell us that kids are reading for fun for the first time in their lives. It’s thrilling when a kid falls in love with books about man-eating sharks and must read every single one. This is what librarians are great at – finding out what kids and teens want to read when the kids don’t even know themselves.
How have you seen the program evolve over the years to adapt to the changing needs of students?
Eva: There is growing emphasis on using the program to attract new users to the community. We also take the summer reading club out into the community; our “group game boards” can be used by day camps, preschools, and any other organization where children spend the summer.
Research shows that literacy is not just all about reading. Writing, talking, and even playing build literacy skills, and there are other literacies as well – visual literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and more. We have been trying to build all these into our Summer Reading Programs.
For more information visit www.lapl.org/summerreading – or call Youth Services at 213-228-7480.
–Posted by Bridgette Bates