Knights, fairies and dragons, oh my! Local libraries have harnessed the national summer reading program theme, “Imagine Your Story,” to help families stay engaged over the summer – and to add some magic during a difficult time.
Every year, students lose some academic skills over the summer, often called the summer slide. But school closures, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, might make the backslide more significant. La Plata County libraries have redesigned their summer reading programs to limit viral spread, combat the summer slide and offer socially distant summer activities.
On average, students lose up to half a year of academic skills over the summer, said Marcia Vining, Ignacio Community Library director, in speaking with local teachers.
“Some kids jump right back in and get going with no problems, and other kids really do flounder,” Vining said. “I have been told that the first quarter of school is spent reviewing the last year. That’s just going to be heightened with this.”
There is national concern that students might fall further behind grade level because of coronavirus-related school closures.
With young children, summer learning programs help build pre-reading skills. Older children return to school with improved reading skills, said Sandy Irwin, Durango Public Library director.
“The studies are showing, and have shown for years, that reading over the summer keeps you ready to learn,” Irwin said.
Summer reading during a pandemicIn normal years, the libraries might hold kickoff celebrations, bring in performers or offer in-person programming. That’s not possible this year, the library staff members said. The Durango, Ignacio and Bayfield libraries each chose a different way to keep people of all ages engaged over the summer.
The Ignacio Community Library reading program, which starts June 3, will use a combination of virtual storytime, with themes like fairy tales and mythical creatures, and take-and-make crafts. The library will also use an online streaming platform with family-friendly activities in July.
Families can win prizes from weekly drawings, and the library will donate funds to a local coronavirus relief group based on the number of books read by the end of the program.
If online access is difficult, the library provides paper progress logs and activity packets, Vining said. Staff clean then isolate materials for four days before putting them back into circulation.
In Durango, the reading program starts June 10. Kids, elementary school-aged and younger, can earn a grand-prize entry and smaller prizes for every 10 hours of reading. Teens earn rewards after every 20 hours of reading, and adults receive weekly prize entries for each book they read. People can register for summer reading online or by phone.
At the Pine River Library in Bayfield, the summer learning program takes kids away from computers using paper packets and craft boxes filled with interactive activities, said Darcy Poletti Harp, library spokeswoman.
The program will start in July. In addition to reading books, people of any age can participate in family-friendly, “quirky” activities based on fairy tales, myths and legends, she said. For example, “Tame Your Dragon” involves playing with at-home pets. For the “Send a Scroll” activity, families will send letters to people they miss. Crafts include activities like building catapults.
“We just feel like now’s the time that people need some magic and imagination in their life,” Poletti Harp said. “The way we can travel right now is through books and imagination.”