Making this summer one for the books

Library: Thousands of kids take part in the county's off-season program, which strives to make reading exciting and fun.


August 25, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Alex Federline, 11, has always enjoyed reading, especially fiction books. His favorite these days is the Harry Potter series.

"I have read all of them, and I re-read the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban," he said.

Alex, who will begin sixth grade Monday at Bonnie Branch Middle School, was one of 14,480 students who participated in Howard County Library's summer reading programs coordinated by the Maryland Department of Education.

"We're very happy [with the participation rate]," said Christie Lassen, head of marketing and public relations for the county library system. "We've done a lot of outreach, and we've tried to reach as many schools as possible."

That outreach has involved librarians making visits to the schools, distributing videos and hanging fliers at sites throughout the county.

Kid-friendly themes

Some county students also helped develop state-circulated public service announcements for the programs, Lassen said.

The library's reading programs annually feature kid-friendly themes to keep students interested in the programs. Prizes, including coupons for free pizza and chicken lunches and small toys, are awarded for reading accomplishments. T-shirts promoting the themes are also sold at the libraries.

This year's theme for preschool through elementary-age participants was "Readers Rule!," which featured reading and activities related to folk and fairy tales.

"Say What?," the annual theme for middle and high school participants, also spotlighted reading lists and activities related to the fantasy genre.

Summer reading supporters say keeping students busy with books is important. According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning, youngsters lose some of what they have learned when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.

Lassen said the library hopes that the programs it promotes help "stave off summer learning losses and keep the kids engaged."

For Alex, books have helped him have an exciting summer. He has read about 20 200-page books.

Besides Harry Potter, he has enjoyed reading A Wrinkle in Time, a story of travel in space to battle a cosmic evil by author Madeleine L'Engle.

"I took the book to Bethany Beach in Delaware, and the main point in the book was, don't give up - there's always hope," he said.

"Reading is very enjoyable, and if you're reading nonfiction books it's one of the best ways to learn. And if you're reading fiction, you can expect to escape from the world."

Good role model

Alex has a role model in his mother, Karen, who is an avid reader.

"I read a lot, and we go to the library quite often," she said.

Karen Federline said her son's love of reading has made him a great speller with an extensive vocabulary.

"He reads at two grades above his level, and he has been recognized through school as an excellent speller," she said.

Like Alex, Jasmine Yom, a 10-year-old entering fifth grade at Pointers Run Elementary School, enjoys reading.

During the summer, she read books about people who turn into moths at night as well as inspiring tomes offering lessons of "trying real hard," she said.

At last count, she had read 30 books since summer began.

Asked why she likes reading so much, Jasmine responded, "Books help you learn different things."

Jasmine's mother, Azita, said she and her daughter make weekly trips to the library to check out books. She also noticed that Jasmine had improved her vocabulary from all the reading she does.

Azita praised the library's programs.

"They have really helped her," she said.

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