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Reading program keeps minds sharp
Published 6/19/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Take a seat, Alice Cooper: school may be out for summer, but children continue to bust out their books.

As the final school bells ring and local kids’ dreams turn toward summer fun, the staff at Neill Library said they hope summer will also be a time for learning.

From the beginning of June to the end of July, children in Pullman can record their reading habits, marking off each day they read for 20 minutes or more on a calendar. Children who bring their calendars in after 20 days of recorded reading receive a free book of their choice.

Sarah Morrison, adult services librarian, believes the program will help boost students’ academic performance once the school year resumes.

"There’s lots of information about how the summer reading program helps children maintain their reading levels between school years," Morrison said. "Exposing children to different authors [and] different books is beneficial to them."

The reading program is in full swing and keeps growing each year, said Children’s Librarian Kathleen Ahern.

Ahern has been part of the free reading program for nine years and said she believes it was a tradition decades before she became involved. There has been a substantial increase in participation, with over 1,000 children of all ages registered for the program.

Prizes are awarded to the top readers in specific age groups. Top readers will receive prizes such as an e-reader or a gift card to a local bookstore, Morrison said.

The library also hosts events during the summer to encourage community involvement and interest in reading.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, firefighters and police officers read to children at the library. On June 20, local firefighters will be reading to children in the library from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Cmdr. Chris Tennant said it is good for children to witness officers in an informal context.

"It puts a human face on police work," Tennant said. "So much involvement with police is negative. This allows people to see officers in a positive, day-to-day aspect."

Pullman resident Kayla Thomas says she appreciates the effort that goes into the program. Her daughter has been involved in the summer reading program for years.

Thomas praised the Neill Library and said they excel at promoting literacy through their programs.

"We have a really academically-minded community anyway," Thomas said. "But this really encourages families to keep their kids reading."

Thomas said she believes reading is valuable at all stages in life and is important to instill that value in children.

"It’s more than just reading a book," Thomas said. "It’s learning how to think and develop your imagination. Those are things which will help you no matter what you do later in life."

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