Students and parents sat attentively Thursday while Georgia state School Superintendent Richard Woods read the book “The Day the Crayons Quit” at Washington Memorial Library in Macon.
Woods cracked jokes and engaged the audience with colorful commentary as a way to promote literacy during the summer.
The library hosted Woods, state librarian Julie Walker and Bibb County schools Superintendent Curtis Jones to mark the beginning of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System’s summer reading program.
Woods said he wants to promote the importance of literacy and maintaining reading levels throughout the summer.
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“Reading doesn’t just stop at the end of school,” Woods said. “It needs to continue on during the summer.”
He and his staff want to cut down on reading loss that happens throughout the summer months as students take a break from school. Up to three months of reading ability can be lost, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Thanks to partnerships with Change 4 Georgia, Better World Books and Scholastic, the state department will ensure more than 100,000 books will be donated to children. Of that total, 25,000 will go to Georgia’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers which operate outside of school hours.
This year’s summer reading program is themed “On Your Mark, Get Set ... READ!” according to a news release by the Middle Georgia Regional Library System. The program focuses on fitness and nutrition while supporting student literacy. The program wants every participant to strive for 25 hours of reading during the summer months. Programs are available for children, teens and adults. Students can visit summerreading.gadoe.org to complete reading logs.
The Middle Georgia Regional Library is playing its part as well, hosting the summer reading program at branch libraries. Regional Library Director Jennifer Lautzenheiser said she’s excited to see the program put in action.
“Summer reading improves all skills. It keeps their brain engaged in retaining all their lessons,” Lautzenheiser said. “It comes at a perfect time for us. ... I think that the state getting on board and encouraging it statewide is fantastic and is going to benefit all of Georgia.”
Jones said there is a major focus to have children on par with their reading level by third grade and that a major initiative is in place in Bibb County to improve reading on all levels.
“The state school superintendent really helped us by coming down and giving us a big kickoff,” Jones said. “Just people seeing that you can come to the library and have fun and get books that are free is going to help us a lot.”
Jones said he looks forward to students reading on their own and asking their parents to take them to the library on a regular basis. He also wants to see that literacy progress is not lost when students take their initial literacy assessments in August. These assessments monitor student reading levels and determine if students are achieving at the appropriate grade level.
Jones said he would like to see parents have excellent reading habits of their own, and Woods agreed. Both superintendents said they want parents to take advantage of some of the new tools available to their children.
“Right now we do have a strategic plan in getting online resources with the Get Georgia Reading program ... and MyOn reading, which has digital resources so that many of our kids actually have access online,” Woods said.
Parents are excited to see the summer program come along. Jennifer Marks, a mother of two young readers, said the program is a fantastic idea.
“This is the second year that we’ve been able to do the summer reading program, and it’s fabulous,” Marks said. “The kids get excited (that) they get the prizes at the end of the year. ... It was very motivational last year, and I’m excited to see how it’s going to take off.”
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Kinetix Health Club and the Vitamin Shoppe are sponsors of this year’s initiative and will provide special prizes for readers who accomplish program incentives.
More information about the summer reading program can be found at branch libraries and bibblib.org, according to a news release from the Middle Georgia Regional Library System. Registration began May 23, and the program will end Aug. 6.
Avery Braxton: 678-633-1413, email@example.com, @brax_avery