Librarian assisting summer reading Chandler Gilbert Events

"Kids and their parents also can stop by the Mesa or Chandler libraries to have a librarian help."

County and city libraries across the East Valley have kicked off their summer reading program to combat “reading skill loss” over summer recess.

The programs share the same goal: to get kids reading for at least 20 minutes a day.

“Twenty minutes is kind of the sweet spot. If kids read for that long they can maintain the literacy skills they gained throughout the school year, so teachers don’t have to spend time next year getting them caught back up to where they were,” said Karrie Wicks, adult services librarian at the Chandler Public Library.

According to the tutoring service Oxford Learning, about two months of reading skills are lost over the summer — meaning the first six weeks of the new school year are spent re-learning old material to get kids back on track.

Oxford Learning also found students that experience a learning loss — also known as “the summer slide” — fall two years behind their peers academically by the end of sixth grade.

As part of the free program designed to combat the summer slide, everyone from newborns to adults can win prizes at local libraries, depending on how many minutes they spend reading every day.

After reaching an ultimate goal of reading 1,000 minutes this summer, or 20 minutes per day, participants can choose a book of their own to keep or donate to a school through their online account.

The free book gifted to those that complete the 1,000-minute goal shows children how to share their love for reading with others — or grow their own at-home library.

Wicks said when looking for a book this summer, in the library or anywhere else, parents should let kids choose whatever engages them and not worry about how challenging the book is.

A general rule of thumb, Wicks said, is if a child has chosen a book with more than two or three words that they do not know and cannot figure out using context clues, the book may be too challenging for them.

However, if they pick a book lower than their reading level but have expressed interest in the material, the goal of maintaining literacy progress will be accomplished.

“It’s really about keeping them engaged for those 20 minutes, we’re not pushing them to learn new skills we just want to maintain the skills they already have,” said Wicks.

Andrea Guzman, youth services librarian at the Scottsdale Public Library, agreed with Wicks and added parents can also play a role in preventing summer learning loss for their children by picking up a book themselves.

“When the little ones see mom and dad reading, they’re going to want to do that too. Kids model parent behavior so if families dedicate 20 minutes to reading together or reading their own books the kids will be inclined to get their reading time in,” said Guzman.

The program’s theme this year is “A Universe of Stories” and will be hosted alongside various space-themed events that vary from one library to the next.

Children and adults that attend any of the events for the libraries across the valley will receive a secret code.

When redeemed online through participant’s summer reading log accounts, the code tacks on points to the user’s overall score.

“The events aren’t worth as much as the actual minutes they get reading because we really want to stress leisure reading. But it’s a great way to get families to our free events and give them something they can do together,” said Guzman.

Wicks said you do not need to be library a card holder to participate in the summer reading program.

She added anyone can use the library’s resources without a card so long as they stay in the building and do not leave with a book.

Those interested in checking out books from the library will need to sign up for a card using an ID and proof of residency.

Summer reading program participants will need to create an online account that will be used to log minutes read at read20az.com.

Kids and their parents also can stop by the Mesa or Chandler libraries to have a librarian help.

“The great thing about the online accounts is that you can log your reading from anywhere at any time, and you never lose track of how far you’ve come,” said Wicks.

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