FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (July1, 2010) - Every summer the Robert F. Sink Library organizes a free Summer Reading Club geared for children starting kindergarten through fourth grade. This year's program "Voyage to Book Island" promises the little explorers five weeks of tropical excitement and adventure.

The Summer Reading Club promotes reading as an early-age activity and encourages children to keep reading during their summer school break. It aims to help children stay out of the heat and embark on a reading journey at the library.

"Our goal with the program is to get kids excited about reading and to make coming to the library a fun experience. We do this in the summer and we carry on over during the rest of the school year and right onto the rest of their lives" James Moore, the library's director, said.

Librarian Janet Daugherty, who has been involved in the reading program for 30 years, said reading should not be a chore. It should be something that the children enjoy. She said reading to children regularly by parents is fundamental in their success in school and life later on.

"If you start a child young reading, they will be a reader for the rest of their life. You have to catch them when they are young. If you don't they are not gonna read as adults," she said.

The Summer Reading Club is the biggest program of the entire year, Moore said. It will meet once a week every Thursday in July and concludes July 29 with a big pizza party at the Dale Wayrynen Recreation Center. That is when the kids who have completed the program receive their certificate.

"We recognize all the children who have participated. The requirement is each child has to read 10 books or if they are a very young reader have 10 books read to them. So at the party we hand out certificates, we give everybody pizza, drinks, we have a magician come in and entertain the children," Moore said.

During the program, each week when the kids come together they are divided up in age groups and the library staff reads stories to them and does craft projects. Sometimes, different outside groups come in to the library to do complimentary activities. For instance, this year one of the sessions will feature the popular Tales to Tails group, which uses therapy dogs as a way to encourage the children to read the stories to the dogs.

"Part of their use of therapy dogs is children who have challenges in school and learning, they may feel shy about reading or participating, but they can sit down and read to the dog and the dog is not, judgmental; whatever they do the dog will accept it, so that helps build their confidence," Moore said.

Besides reading books and doing crafts, the children will be getting a lot of neat stuff this year that the library staff was not able to provide in years past. Treats and refreshments will also be given to the children every session they attend.

"They're getting a lot of stuff this year; T-shirts, beach balls, beach towels because it's a beach type theme ... We're really looking forward to that." Daugherty said.

Daugherty does not view other activities for kids such going to the pool, playing outside, playing video games and watching TV as competing with the Summer Reading Program.

"It is a whole different thing. Children who are going to come to the library for the Summer Reading Program, they can still go to the pool," Daugherty said. "It is only one hour a week and so they still have plenty of time to do other activities, but it does keep them connected to the reading and keep their skills up through the summer."

The program does not require children to read an inordinate number of books. They only have to read the 10 books or have 10 books read to them. Each child can check out three titles per week. Because the library has a limited number of children's books, it restricts the number of items they can take home, but that is so every child will have books to read, Daugherty said.

Some of the very popular titles kids like to read right now include "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, the "Eragon" series, as well as "anything on the teen side of the house with vampires," she said.

The library's staff said they expect from 60 to 70 children each session.

To avoid "chaos" and to accommodate the large number of children participating in programs in various areas of the library, the facility opens one hour before its regular operation time.

"A lot of children think going to the library is you have to be quiet all the time, you have to do certain things, that's why we do it before we open," Daugherty said. "We're trying to get them to feel comfortable coming to the library, to understand what the procedures are to check out a book, how important it is to take care of a book, don't color in them, don't destroy them, don't tear them up. Mostly, we want them to have fun reading."

Daugherty said parents love the program and give a lot of very positive feedback every year. "They seem to enjoy what we've been doing," she said.

Leslye Cartwright has two pre-school children and a 9-year-old step-daughter. She registered for the Summer Reading Club because she believes the program will bring back the enjoyment of reading, as well as keep her kids inspired and continue using their imagination.

"They don't have to sit around and watch TV and be bored, they can choose to read," she said.

Chelsea Kunkel, also a mother of two, said she has been coming to the library for about six months. She has heard about the Summer Reading Club but because her children are not old enough they cannot participate in the program yet. Instead, they have been coming in the library every week for other activities such as Fancy Nancy and the preschool story time and craft time on Thursdays, she said.

Kunkel said her daughter Amelia, who will be going into Pre-K this fall, started going to the library when she was 3. Besides playing tee ball, swimming and playing outside when it is not too hot, Amelia said she likes reading books because it is her "best thing to do in the whole wide world."

Kunkel believes reading is an important tool that kids "will use for the rest of their lives." The younger parents start getting their kids to love books the better, she said.

"We check out 14 books at a time and every night we read two books at least and then they still go to bed with a book," she said. "So, to get them interested in books at this age is very important."

On the benefits of reading for children, Cartwright said it not only builds their vocabulary and broadens their horizons; it also teaches them to be more involved and interested.

"At this young age, it is the perfect time to get them excited about reading," she said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16