By Joel Hall and Johnny Jackson
Library systems in Clayton and Henry counties are helping students get ahead of the reading curve through summer reading programs. Programs in both counties got into full swing this week.
Clayton County's Vacation Reading Program began May 31 -- the first full day of summer vacation -- and will continue until August 6 -- the day before school goes back into session.
Janice Arcuria, coordinator of the program, said the goal s to encourage reading, and ultimately make young people more well-rounded individuals.
"The main purpose of the vacation reading program is to encourage them to read for fun," said Arcuria. "If you enjoy reading, you can pretty much do anything that you want to. People who enjoy reading will become lifetime readers, whereas people who just read for assignments, will stop reading when they get out of school."
The Clayton County Library System has been registering students for its reading program since Saturday and will continue to do so throughout the summer. Readers are broken up into age groups and are given different prizes -- such as paperback books, key chains, jewelry, free smoothies, and free meals -- when they have read a certain number of books, or have read for a certain number of hours.
Last year, the program registered 6,094 students in its infant to 11-years-old group, and 882 students in its 12-18 age group. Out of the 6,976 registered students, 2,568 were able to read at least 20 books.
This year, in addition to books and prizes, students involved in Clayton's summer reading programs will have something extra to celebrate. On Saturday, June 7, from 11 a.m., to 2 p.m., the Clayton County Headquarters Library, located at 865 Battlecreek Road in Jonesboro, will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
All afternoon, children will be able to participate in games located all around the library property. From 12:30-2 p.m., the library will offer free hot dogs, cookies, and chips, and throughout the day, there will be magic shows, storytellers, and arts and crafts demonstrations.
Around noon, there will be remarks from Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, and from 1-2 p.m., a presentation on "Preventive Car Maintenance Tips for Ladies" will be given in the library parking lot.
In Henry, hundreds turned out for the summer reading program kick-off at the McDonough Branch of the Henry County Library System, which took place on Monday.
"What we try to do is make reading throughout the summer fun for them," said Debbie Zerkle, children's services specialist at the McDonough branch.
This year, the Henry County Library System is participating in the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which began at the grassroots in 1987 and has grown into a consortium of states that work together to provide inexpensive summer reading program materials for children through public library systems.
Participating systems have access to similar materials and resources. The systems also share the same summer reading program theme. This year's theme for children up to 12 years old is called "Catch the Reading Bug." Young adults, ages 12-18, participate in the "Metamorphosis @ Your Library" summer reading program.
Zerkle said the McDonough branch library experienced an influx of more than 300 children on Monday - the first weekday following the last day of school for many in Henry County - to help launch the library's summer program.
The program is available in variations at each of Henry County's public libraries, where would-be participants can sign-up through the end of June.
Program participants keep reading logs, and are asked to read 20 books or commit to 10 hours of reading. Zerkle said summer reading helps keep children stimulated and intellectually active.
"What I tell the kids is, if they read during the summer, they keep their brains active," Zerkle said. "And the kids that don't, they can get lazy."
More than 800 children have already signed up for the summer reading program at the McDonough branch library. Zerkle said about 1,300 signed up for the program in 2007. The library will assist children in finding age-appropriate books.
Fairview and Hampton branch libraries will host summer reading program kick-offs today at 3 p.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively.
On the net:
Clayton County Library System:
Henry County Library System: