Douglas County School Board member Neal Freitas was volunteering as a “shelver” at the Douglas County Public Library when he first became aware of the summer reading program.
“It was all about the volume of books I was re-shelving,” the retired intermediate school principal recalls. “Instead of it taking one hour, it suddenly was taking me two and one-half hours. That told me kids were checking out all kinds of books, and I thought that was pretty neat.”
This summer Freitas joins a dozen other library volunteers who are registering children ages 1 to 11 for the “Dig Into Reading” component of the program, and encouraging 12-to-17-year-old readers to sign up for “Beneath the Surface” activities. Registration began June 3 and the program continues through the end of July. Related activities during the next two months include a dinosaur hunt at the Zephyr Cove branch, composting “worms on tour” at two local parks, a puppet theater, and dazzling displays of rocks and minerals.
Young readers receive a program booklet where they can record the titles they read, as well as reading-related activities. Toddlers, for example, get credit for having someone read a board book to them or for playing a finger game with them. Older, independent readers can read to someone else or tell someone about a favorite book they’ve read. All activities are rewarded with prizes, and a free glider ride will be raffled off as the grand prize.
The kick-off event for the summer reading program was held at the CVIC Hall in Minden on June 11. Magician Larry Wilson shared performing secrets, and the Douglas County Library Foundation hosted an ice cream social. Books were on sale all afternoon from Usborne Books.
The school board’s Freitas can remember the name of the first librarian who introduced him to the worlds available in books: Helen Whitaker.
“I was something of a challenge, but she would sit us down and read to us, and I was captivated,” he says. “They didn’t have to worry about me pulling anyone’s pigtail”
Summer reading program volunteer Duncan Deacy, the youngest in a family of seven children, had to find his own way to the library. “By the time I came along, my parents were too exhausted to take me,” the second-grade teacher recalls.
But Deacy kept returning to the library, especially in the summers, and developed an interest in non-fiction, how-does-that-work? titles. He also made time for wonderment on his book lists, and he and his wife, library director Linda Deacy, read Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon” to their young son more times than he wants to remember.
As a volunteer for the summer reading program, Deacy says that handing out prizes for books read is one way to recognize and reward the importance of reading. “It’s so important to keep kids reading throughout the summer,” he adds. “Because if they don’t continue reading, they can really regress.”
Linda Class seconds that notion. Retired from a 37-year career as a teacher of kindergarten through third grade, Class volunteers at C.C. Meneley Elementary School and with the library’s summer reading program.
“As a teacher, I know how important reading is as a skill,” she says. “If kids don’t read during the summer, their reading levels do slip backwards, and beginning readers especially need constant reading.”
When Class’ two granddaughters, who live in Idaho, call to “Skype” with her via computer, it’s often to read from their favorite new books. That kind of enthusiasm is what she and other volunteers hope to replicate with the summer reading program.
“There are lots of little toddlers in the program now, and it’s such fun to see them come in the door, turn the corner, and just take off for the tub of board books, leaving parents in their wake,” Class says. “We just love seeing them so excited about reading.”