Saugerties kids take part in summer reading program

Elementary-school students in Saugerties have joined kids across the state in the summer library reading program, an initiative sponsored by the New York State Education Department and digital book library. 

Stephanie McElrath is the children’s librarian at the Saugerties Public Library, which is working with nearly 200 students from Mt. Marion, Grant D. Morse, Lawrence M. Cahill, and C.M. Riccardi elementary schools. Kids not enrolled in public school are also welcome, said McElrath. 

The program, dubbed Libraries Rock! With myON, allows students to participate whether they’re near their local library or not. Digital books are counted in a student’s summer reading total. In an effort to bring kids into the village library, however, students are offered prizes at the beginning of the school year. The library has children fill out a raffle ticket each time they visit the library, which is put into a tub representing their school. Each school will draw names for prizes in September.

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Keeping track of reading time

“They get a reading record when they register, and they keep track of the minutes that they read,” explained McElrath. “This year, the summer reading program theme is Libraries Rock. For every 15 minutes they read they’re coloring in a musical instrument which borders the card. We punch it. The older independent readers, which would be elementary-age children, then get to bang a cool gong once for every 15 minutes they read. It’s cool.”

Younger kids in pre-K and kindergarten fall into the “Read With Me” group. Those kids are also keeping track in 15-minute increments of how much they read. They get to pick out a prize from a box each time they visit the public library. If they’ve been reading they get to fill in a punch card — this one turtle-themed. It’s part of a much larger turtle-themed art exhibited in the library. 

“They get pieces of paper that they are gluing onto really cool turtles,” said McElrath. “We are covering our third turtle.”

Local schools want to get kids into the public library, too. Dawn Scannapieco is principal at Cahill Elementary, literally just steps away from the library. She says Cahill kids will grow up loving the library. “Students become familiar with the public library and we hope become lifelong library users,” said Scannapieco.

Summer reading keeps the kids engaged. No matter where they’re spending their summer vacation, they can be taken on journeys of the imagination. “Continuing to read all summer allows students to maintain reading levels, expand vocabulary, and improve comprehension,” said Scannapieco. “Students can travel anywhere through a book, and the summer reading program allows for children to do just that.”

No ‘summer slide’ for readers

Carole Kelder, principal at Mt. Marion Elementary, agreed. “I think the students that participate remain engaged all summer,” she said. “These students don’t experience what is known as ‘summer slide’ that students who don’t continue to read during the summer months often do. Students [who read] get enrichment and continue to develop a love of reading. They get to socialize with their friends, and make new friends.”

At Mt. Marion between 60 and 80 students most from kindergarten through third grade, participate in the summer reading program through the public library.

In addition the raffle ticket, Kelder said, students keep track of their visits to the library on a task card and can receive prizes when they fill up. “When the students come back to school, we recognize those students that participated in the summer reading program at our back to school assembly,” said Kelder. 

Students can keep reading when the library is closed through the myON digital book library, which contains thousands of enhanced and age-appropriate eBook titles for kids in all grades. Kids can receive book recommendations based on their interests, grade and reading level.

Children’s librarian McElrath counts 157 independent readers, primarily those in elementary school, as registered in the library’s summer reading program, with a further 81 “Read With Me” kids. 

An end-of-summer family fun night is scheduled at the library next Wednesday, August 15 starting at 6:30 p.m. The celebration which will include “Reptile Encounters with Mark Perpetua.” 

Kelder said there were other summertime activities for kids at Mt. Marion as well, including a Battle of the Books trivia night, Maker Days, Lego Club, Chess Club, and a weekly Gaming Day for fifth and sixth graders. 

Readers, McElrath said, are getting a lot more from an activity they enjoy. “With recreational reading, they gain in vocabulary, comprehension,” she said. “And they’re reading for fun, getting to select what they want to read.”

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