Children have access to school libraries for summer reading

Hudson Phillips, 4, looks through a book at the Houserville Elementary School library on Wednesday.
Hudson Phillips, 4, looks through a book at the Houserville Elementary School library on Wednesday. CDT photo

Quinlan Phillips grabbed a “Fly Guy” book from the Houserville Elementary School library shelves and told his mom that was a book he wanted to read.

The 4-year-old, along with twin brother, Hudson, and older sister, Ripley, 9 — a Lemont fifth-grade student — is part of the annual summer reading program through the Schlow Centre Region Library.

It’s part of a larger, national initiative with a goal to get kids to read, and held in partnership with parent teacher organizations from Ferguson, Gray’s Woods and Houserville elementary schools.

“It’s something public libraries do across the U.S. to prevent summer slide and to make reading fun, and engage kids and allow them to choose books they like, to maintain and increase reading skills,” said Anita Ditz, Schlow children’s librarian.

For the first time, participants are able to log in their reading hours and are rewarded based on the number of days spent reading instead of the number of books read, Ditz said.

“We think it makes more of a difference when they read at least 20 minutes a day,” Ditz said.

Last year, in the summer reading program for children ages 3 to 12, 39,198 books and more than 3 million pages were read, Ditz said.

This year, 1,706 kids are registered for that age group.

Ditz added that 129 are signed up in the baby reading program, 136 in the teen category and 190 in the adult summer reading program.

Registration lasts through July, Ditz said.

“I think if you’re engaged in reading, it becomes a thrill for kids to do,” Ditz said. “Readers are more empathetic to personal situations and find inspiration in books. It broadens the human spirit and it’s a life skill you need.”

The event Wednesday at Houserville was the kickoff to the six-week program leading up to the start of school.

Houserville librarian Mardi Frye said that each Wednesday, she expects 80 to 100 children to be part of the sessions, which include guest readers and a chance to check out any books the children want.

The first event included guest readers, fifth-grade teacher Gretchen Fetterolf and learning support teacher Carrie Mauk, who brought in two service dogs, Jack and Waverly.

Mauk said it was her way of educating kids about service animals while incorporating reading. She started with the book “Pet Heroes” before she read two more books about service animals.

The reading program is something the Fitzgerald family looks forward to each year.

“There was no way they were going to miss this one,” said Scott Fitzgerald, of College Township. “They’re here to read — it’s fundamental. ... It’s encouraged because it’s good for them and they like it because we can have fun with it.”

His children, Sydney Fitzgerald, 12, a Mount Nittany Middle School seventh-grader and 10-year-old twin brothers Alex and Anthony — Houserville Elementary students — read more than 100 books each summer combined.

“I love to read,” Sydney said enthusiastically.

Her favorite book is “The Maze Runner,” but she enjoys just about anything with words.

For other parents like Meegan Tomlins, reading is key to keeping the mind going.

“It’s a positive way to get them engaged in reading and finding new books,” said Tomlins, the mother of Ripley, Hudson and Quinlan.

Jessica Colby, a mom from Lemont, signed up her sons Phineas, 6, and Landis, 4, to the program for the first time this year.

“It allows them to get new books, keep up with reading and see friends during the summer,” Colby said.

Ditz said the summer reading program predates her 30 years at the library.

“Stories are part of what makes you human,” she said. “Summer is a time for no real pressure for achievement, so this is a way to find enjoyment. Summer is a way to relax and curl up in a book that takes you somewhere else.”