ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Summertime is nearly here, and a popular pastime for any time of year and any age is reading.
Like many libraries as a way to encourage the habit of reading, Plains Community Library has hosted a summer reading program.
PCL Director Sara Munn said there are some new things for this year’s program, which is scheduled to start later this week.
“The first of them is we are doing a halfway checkpoint grand prize drawing,” she said. “In our library, on our main circulation desk, we have everything on display for the kids and adults so they can put their names in for a drawing.”
To enter the drawing, Munn said participants must meet half of their reading goal for the program.
“Each age range has a different number of books they have to read,” she said. “We do a book system for summer reading. At halfway, they get an entry, and when they complete their summer reading goal, they get one more entry. We’ll announce the winners in July.”
The other new thing for this year’s summer reading program is a private pool party at the Plains Swimming Pool at the end of the program.
“That is being put on and sponsored by my Friends of the Library group,” Munn said. “Everybody who brings back a completed reading tracker will get a pool party pass from the library, and we’re having the party on July 12.”
PCL will not be open that day, and the library will provide drinks and snacks at the party.
“After talking to the pool, they’ve been great to work with, and they’re going to honor the pool party passes throughout the summer,” Munn said. “If we have kids and families who are on vacation or they can’t make it, they will still get to go in for free and enjoy some pool time on the library.”
Munn said more adults are signing up this year, which was one of the library’s goals for the program.
Events for this year include Dan, Dan, the Magic Man, a summer reading favorite at 2 p.m. Friday at the library, Mad Science, another favorite at 2 p.m. June 30 and story sharing with PBS Kids at 1 p.m. June 16.
In today’s world, books come in many forms from the traditional paperback and hardback to audio books and e-books. Munn said summer reading participants can use any of these means, with all of them counting toward their goal.
“We don’t have an exclusive rule that it is has to be a paperback or it has to be a physical book,” she said. “We offer Hoopla, which also offers audiobooks and e-books. All of that counts. They just have to write it down and the date they completed it. That comes in at the halfway mark, and the librarian will check it off. They’ll get their first tickets to put in towards whatever grand prize they want. Each age range has its own goal.”
The type of reading is also not restricted, as adults can read young adult literature, and with many school districts having an advanced reading system as USD 483 does, Munn said the summer reading program for youth to read non-AR books.
“A lot of our graphic novels are not on AR,” she said. “We request them. It’s a process that gets them on the system. We offer Wonder books, and a lot of kids like those. We have those for all ages. It’s an actual physical hardback book they can read or hit play and follow along on the pages. We have been offering that for two years, and it’s been very popular.”
Munn said summer reading is PCL’s main event and its largest, and she said the program is particularly important for early literacy for younger children.
“We have science that shows when a brain is developing during those critical years between 3 and 5, we really want to work on getting them exposed to as much as possible even when they are just babies,” she said. “The more they hear you talking to them or even if you’re just reading an article or book of your own out loud, the more it helps build those paths that are very crucial. We continue to build on those, so once they’re in school and start learning how to decode, when they’re learning the alphabet and putting it together to make words, that’s all very crucial early on.”
Munn said PCL is looking for more involvement from teens and adults to make reading more of a family activity.
“Not only can they enjoy benefits from doing it together, but also building that connection, that bond of reinforcing how important reading is for all ages, especially with our older school kids in the summer,” she said. “Statistically, there’s what they call the reading slump, and it shows two months of non-steady reading does affect them when they hit August. There’s a little bit of a delay in trying to pick back up and move on to where the next higher level of reading we’ll be doing. This is trying to help combat that and also continue building on the foundation for the little ones.”
The 2022 summer reading program at the Plains library, Munn said, had 68 total participants, and as of May 16, 53 people had already signed up for this year, leading the director to believe that number will easily surpass last year’s.
“We’ve got a lot of new families who are coming to us, so I think we’re going to pass that number,” she said. “Having the Friends group is a big game changer because they advocate a lot for us. They help get the word out and advocate for everything we do here in the library.”
Munn has been director of PCL for about three years, and in that time, library officials have started setting up for summer reading in May.
“When kids come in for those last two visits of the school year, we have the theme already out,” she said.
Children and families will also have a photo booth to take pictures, and Munn said crafts centered around kindness, empathy and friendship will likewise be offered. These, she said, will also focus on spreading kindness even to strangers and being a good friend, themes that will vary based on the age group involved.
To sign up for PCL’s summer reading program, go to 500 Grand Ave. in Plains. The library is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Thursday.
“They can also visit our Web site at plainslibrary.info, which will have a live calendar of events that’ll show everything we have going on beyond just summer reading,” Munn said. “Once they get signed up, they will have a flyer. We also do a little incentive bag. You’ll get a little tie dye bag, and they’re all at random. Mom and Dad usually get a pen, a notebook, the tracker and a little card about the pool party. You have to meet your goal to be able to attend that. They can also call 620-563-7326.”
Kicking off summer reading will be a family bingo night starting at 1 p.m. Friday at PCL. Munn said this is a very popular event for her patrons.
“That’s probably our biggest draw for getting Mom, Dad and everybody in,” she said.
It takes a lot of work to put on a summer reading program, and Munn said PCL tried something new this year, with the Friends of the Library group being the big sponsor. Also sponsoring this year’s program are the Southwest Kansas Library System, Lana Miller CPA and Southern Pioneer Electric. Munn said the local electric cooperative also provides donations to make the program possible.
As an added bonus, program participants will get items to sign each time they visit the library and check out a book, with adults signing hears and children signing hands.
“We’re going to run that all the way to July to see who has the most checkouts,” Munn said. “The teachers actually issued a challenge against their students, so we’ll see how that pans out.”