CICF News / 2012 / June / News Post
June 21, 2012
A Gift With Words That Keeps On Giving

Allowing children to select books according to their interests helps build a love of reading.

Sara Baize spent plenty of her summer hours reading books checked out from the old Broad Ripple Library branch while she was growing up. She spent even more time carefully planning how to use the points she earned with those books through the Summer Reading Program.

Today, Sara’s five- and three-year old children both visit the Glendale and College Avenue branches of the Indianapolis Public Library regularly to select books, earn points and pick the prizes they want. But the 2012 Summer Reading Program, “Gear Up For Good”, offers children new opportunities that can help other kids – just by reading. And as much as things stay the same, at Indianapolis Public Library branches, they are changing.

“Gear Up for Good” underscores the Library’s commitment to summer learning and to the educational success of Indianapolis youth. In addition to earning prizes including books, coupons and toys, 2012 program participants can exchange their reading points for BackPack Attack school supplies – either for themselves or for students in need. BackPack Attack is a United Way of Central Indiana program that distributes school supplies to children in need. They can also read away old fines by exchanging points for fine forgiveness.

Summer Reading Fuels School Success

The impact of summer learning loss is well documented, and summer reading can play a significant role in preventing and reversing that loss, which is one reason that The Indianapolis Foundation Library Fund supports this program. Summer reading programs correlate with two important factors for improving and supporting literacy – access to printed materials and reading high-interest materials.

Libraries play a critical role in reading and learning development for many kids, but especially for impoverished kids whose homes often don’t include many books, magazines or newspapers. It’s a role that’s even more important during the summer when school’s out. Studies state that kids who are around more books read more often and as a result, read more proficiently, spell and write better and have larger vocabularies.

Summer reading programs also offer kids of all ages the chance to pick high-interest materials about topics that they select. Allowing young readers to explore materials that they find interesting has several positive results. They are more likely to report that they enjoy reading and are more likely to be proficient both in literacy skills and in synthesizing information.

Because summer reading can help kids succeed at school, Library and school staff work together to promote the program to young people. At SENSE Charter School, Tammy Coolman from the Fountain Square Library Branch presented a video, showed examples of prizes and handed out materials for parents in May. Two grades visited the library in June on walking field trips, and each student had the chance to sign up for the program.

“We love the Summer Reading Program because it helps many of our kids read more during the summer,” says Jamie Fahrner, SENSE Charter School’s Outreach Coordinator. “Even with our balanced calendar and six-week summer break, we still see a dip in information retention at the start of the school year, so we really encourage our kids to join.”


Reading For A Greater Good

While prizes certainly get mentioned a lot by participating families and children, the Summer Reading Program’s lasting effects are larger than coupons to the Children’s Museum’s Haunted House or Bob the Glob green slime. For many young readers, the program helps inspire a love of reading.

“You can read a lot,” says seven-year-old participant Emily Hunter about why she enjoys the program. Her mother Keri Hunter reports that Emily typically finishes a book in the car on the way home from the Warren or Irvington Library Branches.

The philanthropic twist on prizes offered through the program’s partnership with the BackPack Attack is another perk for many parents, who can use the program to help their children learn about giving to others.

“I love the new twist of using points to donate,” says Erin Day, a mom and blogger from Indianapolis' northeast side, “Once my son understood the program, he bought some things to donate."

More about The Indianapolis Foundation Library Fund.

Images and video courtesy of the The Indianapolis Public Library and The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.