John Spevak: Summer reading program for kids will be delicious

By John SpevakMay 30, 2013 

Reading is So Delicious! That's the theme for this summer's Merced County Library's free Summer Reading Program, which starts June 11 in Los Banos.

As in previous summers, the local library has an excellent plan -- encourage young people (from very young children to high school seniors) to read during the summer.

This year's theme is apropos. Enjoyable books are like good food: they delight and satisfy.

It may seem strange to encourage kids to read during the summer. After all, by June most students (and, in fact, most teachers) are glad to have a well-deserved break from education, which can be fun but also can become -- after nine months -- a grind.

But the county library, in all of its branches, including Los Banos, is talking about reading not required textbooks but books that that kids choose on their own to read for fun.

In this way young people not only continue to develop their reading skills during the summer but "feed" their imagination and "savor" the pleasure that reading can bring.

The library has many young people's books in Spanish, so that children whose first language is Spanish have the opportunity to read books in their native language as well as English.

Here is the way the Summer Reading Program works. When young people come into the library, they are given a reading log. Kids who don't have a library card can, with the help of a parent, apply for and receive one.

Along with the log, the young people, working with library staff and volunteers, set summer reading goals. During the course of six weeks (the program ends August 2), kids record the books they read in their log and receive small prizes for reaching their reading goals.

At the end of the summer each young person who completes the program is given a Reading Program Completion Certificate. In the fall kids can take their certificates to their school, and it will be placed in their school file.

The process is simple, as is the program's goal: to nurture the enjoyment of not only of reading but also of libraries. The Los Banos library prides itself on welcoming and helping patrons of all ages, from young children to senior citizens.

Over the past five years the local library has undergone a makeover that includes new paint, organization, decorations, and books, so that it is a pleasant and inviting place which people of all ages, especially kids, enjoy visiting.

The Summer Reading Program builds on this spirit and essentially says to kids, "Come one, come all. Enjoy our library. Have fun reading."

When young people regard reading as something they enjoy rather than endure, they increase their chances of being good readers, at home and in school.

Lynnette Gerbi, a volunteer from the Friends of the Library who has helped run this program for many years in Los Banos, put it this way: "Children who are taught to love books will grow up into adults who love books, who will then help others to read and love books."

From a practical perspective, Lynnette added, "Many of life's basic experiences depend on the ability to read. It is nearly impossible to get ahead in today's world without the ability to read and comprehend the written word."

That's why several adult Friends of the Los Banos Library volunteer their time in the Summer Reading Program working alongside staff, to help kids choose goals and books.

Lynnette is currently looking for additional people willing to become a volunteer Friend of the Library who have some time to devote to this and other related projects. Interested persons can fill out a volunteer form available at the local library's circulation desk.

As a parent and now a grandparent, I am excited our local library has this program. When my kids were small, they and I were in the library regularly every summer.

Now as a grandparent, I tell my grandkids, "Readers are leaders" and "In order to succeed, you need to read."

If you are a parent or grandparent, encourage the children you know and love to sign up for the library's Summer Reading Program. It's a great investment -- at no cost -- in a child's future.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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