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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Summer Reading Program

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Summer Reading Programs at the library have just ended, with nearly 1,200 people participating all around Jefferson County.


Yes, that’s “people,” not just children participating in the Summer Reading Programs from preschool to adult.


83 programs were held around the county library locations with over 2,000 people attending the myriad of programs.


Summer Reading Programs have come a long way from the days of reading a book, and reporting to the librarian who put a “star” on a chart by your name.


Some people read one book, and others read 50 books over the summer, and both are successful in improving their reading habits and skills.


Summer Reading Programs are not new to our libraries.  During the summer of 1902, which was the first year of operations for the Carnegie Building, there was a Boys Club and a Girls Club for the children to keep them reading while school was out for the summer.


While the purpose of reading programs hasn’t changed, the scope has expanded to include everyone.


The famous 1938 photo of a group of children in the South Room of the library, attentively listening to the librarian reading a book, proves that we like to read, and like to be read to.  The audience is composed of readers of all ages!


(That photo is now famous as it is contained in the 2005 “Steubenville” book, produced by Sandy Day and myself.)


School teachers call it the “summer loss,” or “reading setback;” the time between school sessions when some students avoid reading like a plague.


Research shows that students who do not engage in educational activities during the summer typically score lower on tests at the end of the summer than they did at the beginning.


In our 21st Century world of information, where information literally confronts you from every angle and format, the ability to read and comprehend is not only essential, but it is an absolute must.


And like anything else, the only way to improve those skills is to do it again and again, over and over, until the ability becomes part of you.


If it isn’t a traditional paperbound book, then read an e-book, or the Internet, or an online magazine.


When librarians get together, we talk about all of you; all the folks that use libraries.  We get excited about all of you, and we love to talk about your use of libraries and the great stories of success.


But, we are worried about you!  We are concerned about your ability to search for, evaluate, and make use of information.


We seem to be a society of sound bites, and information bytes, with a lack of comprehension thrown into the mix.


Librarians think that you need to read a whole book, (paper or e-book), imagine a story and its characters, and get a mental vision of a far-away place in your mind.


Maybe you could search for information that isn’t found on a website whose address  ends  in dot com and look and see where the information came from, and who is the author and editor, if that information is even revealed.


We are living in a society that demands information retrieval and processing, and there is more responsibility on the individual than ever before.


I was fortunate that my parents encouraged my reading habits with a weekly library visit, which resulted in a minimum of 5 books checked out.  My 1964 Compton’s Encyclopedia was in a bookcase in my bedroom with the index volume ready-to-use.


Including the library in your information habit is easy to start, and one that will last a lifetime.