Summer programs set pace for reading success

Natalya Postupak, 10, left, of Strasburg, helps entertainer Harold Woods, of Newport News, perform a trick during his Circus in a Suitcase event held June 23 at the Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg. Woods performs statewide in elementary schools and children's libraries during the summer. Rich Cooley/Daily
Levi Blankenship, 5, of Edinburg, finds a book to explore inside the Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg. Summer reading for children helps prevent brain atrophy by keeping students active readers during summer vacation. Rich Cooley/Daily

Area libraries are promoting more than just reading — by involving whole communities, they have focused on summer learning, said Donna Hughes, youth services division head for Handley Regional Library in Winchester.

In Handley’s interactive summer program Valley Reads, readers young and old can log points for every minute of reading and win prizes donated by area businesses. But opening a book is only the beginning. Building in other learning opportunities, the Winchester-based library system has partnered with local organizations to offer other ways of accruing points through educational programs.

Participants can also earn points toward their summer learning goals by attending reading programs at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown and those at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, or getting outdoors with Parks & Recreation departments in Winchester, Frederick or Clarke.

Joining libraries in Shenandoah and Warren counties in offering the Library of Virginia’s theme Read to the Rhythm, Handley also encourages participation at musical events throughout the summer, leading up to its Aug. 8 finale at the Taylor Pavilion in Old Town Winchester. Readers will receive certificates, and prize drawings will include the chance to win an electronic tablet and a bicycle donated by Target.

Shenandoah County Library programs in Edinburg for adults and children run through Aug. 13, and the programs at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal will end on Aug. 15.

So far, the program at Handley has been going great, said Library Director John Huddy.

Already Handley, along with its other locations at Bowman Library in Stephens City and the Clarke County Library in Berryville, have matched last year’s summer reading program numbers — “and we’re still in June,” Huddy said.

In Shenandoah County, summer programs include opportunities to make crafts from discarded CDs, tie-dye shirts or compete in a YuGiOh/UNO card tournament. Weekly prizes for children’s and adult clubs include baskets with movies or music, books, USB drives and gift certificates.

Grand prizes for the teen and reading programs are music related — a 32-gigabyte iPod Touch for one lucky teen, and a Bose Radio for one adult winner.

Other prizes are given for every 750 pages read — approximately 2½ books, said David Robinson, adult services librarian at the county library.

Children get a free book for every 40 books they read, and a grand prize winner will score a bike donated by Wal-Mart in Woodstock.

“It pays to read as much as you can,” Robinson said.

Summer reading programs are an annual tradition, but they have a greater purpose than providing entertainment, said Kathy Jacob, youth services assistant at Samuels Library.

Children who don’t read over the long summer months can lose literacy skills they learned in school, setting them back behind their peers by the start of a new school year.

“We just want to keep kids sharp, keep their brains sharp,” Jacob said. “Plus, it’s fun and you can learn a lot.”

Samuels kicked off its summer program with the puppet show Dinosaur Babies and last week made T-shirts in a program about bats.

A theater performance of Sword in the Stone will be at 2 p.m. July 10, and other writing, art, cooking and music programs will take place throughout the summer.

Helping promote greater participation in summer reading programs, Handley successfully applied to be one of five libraries beta testing Virginia’s pilot program of the Great Reading Adventure, a program that re-imagines summer reading. The program, adapted from the Cities of Learning Project, provides a digital way of recording summer reading, using avatars that participants can move along a virtual game board.

Every 80 points earns participants another spot on a board of 50, though Hughes said players can earn points in various ways, like reading or attending programs.

Other participating libraries are in Chesterfield County, Colonial Heights, Newport News and Roanoke, but Handley is the only multi-branch, multi-county library system beta testing the state program. All but some marketing materials is fully funded.

“This is good for Virginia,” Hughes said. “We want to try this out.”

“We’ve had to have lots of training, but it’s going well.”

Contact Handley Regional Library, at 100 W. Piccadilly St., Winchester, by calling 540-662-9041 or visiting Contact Samuels Public Library, at 330 E. Criser Road, Front Royal, by calling 540-635-3153 or visiting Contact Shenandoah County Library, at 514 Stoney Creek Blvd, Edinburg, by calling 540-984-8200 or visiting

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or

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