Summer reading draws record numbers

Six-year-old Addyson Thomas spent the lazy days of summer catching up with a couple old friends: Llama Llama and Froggy, two popular children’s book series.

Addyson, a student at Ditto Elementary in Arlington, spent about a half-hour each day reading as part of Arlington Public Library’s Children’s Summer Reading Club. When she returned to school in August, she felt prepared for the demands of the first grade.

“When you read, you get to learn about a lot of different stuff,” Addyson said. “And it can be really fun.”

Arlington librarians agree. That is why they sponsored a community-wide competition, calling on area schools to see which could record the highest participation in the summer reading program.

Aided by students like Addyson, Ditto Elementary scored the top spot, with nearly 100 students joining the program. Among junior high and high schools, Lamar High School, with about 50 participants, came out on top.

Research has shown that summer learning loss plagues many students. In one study, researchers found that children who read just six books during the summer maintained or improved their reading skills, while kids who did not read saw their skills slip by as much as an entire grade level.

“It’s a real problem,” said Sharon Granado, Arlington’s library services manager for youth services. “And it is one that is easily prevented.”

For the first time, Arlington library workers enlisted the help of teachers and school librarians, as well as Boys and Girls Club of Arlington, YMCA and City of Arlington Recreation centers to encourage students to join the summer reading program.

As a result, participation soared. Nearly 5,000 elementary school-aged children participated, roughly 1,000 more than last year. Among junior high and high schools students, participated jumped from 529 last year to 644 this year.

Students recorded the number of hours they read and received free books. Donations from Friends of the Arlington Public Library, First Rate, Texas Rangers and General Motors helped cover costs.

For having the highest participation, Ditto Elementary and Lamar High School won sets of 20 top books chosen by the Texas Library Association.

Jeanie Murrow, Ditto’s librarian, said she hopes to increase participation even more next summer.

“We have great teachers and great parents who are eager for our children to learn and grow, even during the summer,” Murrow said. “This was a community-wide effort.”