Back to school means the end of summer reading at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Libraries in Matthews and Mint Hill. And both branches celebrated the successful children’s program with special events this week.
The Matthews Library held an ice cream social on Wednesday, Aug. 8 to reward students ages 5 to 11 for their participation in the summer reading program. Mint Hill was planning a celebratory ice cream social on Friday, Aug. 10.
“We’ve always had good participation, there are always a lot of people who sign up,” said Amrita Patel, library service specialist at the Matthews branch. “But it’s getting people to stick with it and complete the program that’s often problematic. This year’s incentives — like an iPad and this ice cream social — help motivate people to stay on board.”
During the event, Amrita and a few teen volunteers read the story, “The Ice Cream King,” to the 20 students, followed by a skit, voting for favorite flavors of ice cream, a relay race and crafts, where students were able to design and color their own paper ice cream cones.
Carleigh Courtney, 8, a student at Matthews Elementary, said her favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate and that she spent her summer reading books about fairies.
“I love fairies and princesses,” she said. “Anything about them is my favorite. I think I’ve read about 10 of them this summer.”
Carleigh said she reads whenever she has nothing else to do.
“Especially when I’m in the car going places, or waiting on my mom,” she said. “I always bring a book and that’s when I do a lot of my reading.”
Carleigh’s younger sister Audrey, 7, also a Matthews Elementary student, said she and her sister share preferences.
“I like chocolate ice cream and fairy books, too,” she said. “I think I’ve read 12 books this summer.”
Carleigh and Audrey’s older sister Caitlyn, 11, said she and her sisters have the same favorite flavor of ice cream, but don’t like the same types of books.
“I like books about warriors,” she said. “Those are my favorite. I really like the Winnie Years series. I think I’ve read five of those. They’re really good books.”
Mark Engelbrecht, Mint Hill Library branch manager, said the libraries offer a variety of summer reading programs for all ages.
“There’s story times for babies, toddlers and preschoolers all year long, a book club for young ladies focused on the ‘American Girl’ series and Get Set 4 K, which helps prepare students for kindergarten,” he said.
According to Engelbrecht, some libraries, including Matthews and Mint Hill branches, also host programs for children to read to therapy dogs, which helps improve reading skills and confidence.
“This is for some of the earliest level readers,” he said. “Children pick out books and just read aloud to the dogs. It gives them confidence to read out loud because they’re not being scrutinized by the dog. They just have a buddy to help them along. There’s no negativity involved and that’s really great for the kids.”
Engelbrecht also said that the library uses movies to connect readers to books, like “Puss in Boots” and “Sherlock Holmes.”
Patel said the summer reading programs are important because they keep students reading throughout the summer.
“It’s like an engine,” she said. “It’s easier for them to get going in the fall if the engine has been going all summer, too. It keeps their momentum and motivation going and it’s been proven time and time again to work.”
Engelbrecht said the summer reading programs are tracked by computer accounts, which log time spent reading for both adults, teens and young students involved in summer reading programs.
According to statistics provided by Engelbrecht, 2,605 adults systemwide have active accounts, with a total reading time of 4,034,070 minutes. Teens have 2,549 active accounts, with 3,318,150 minutes logged and children have 6,095 active accounts with a total of 5,051,890 minutes logged this summer.
Abbie Bennett, firstname.lastname@example.org