This summer, with about 475 youth in attendance, the San Benito County Free Library’s Summer Reading Program worked toward fostering a love of reading and exploration of new ideas.
Running from June 12 to July 26 in Hollister, all youth involved were able to set reading goals as well as attend weekly summer programs where for one and a half hours participants could engage in the summer’s theme “Reading takes you everywhere: Explore other worlds.”
As Elizabeth Brown, the Children’s Librarian, said on the Summer Reading Program, “It encourages a love of reading in kids that will hopefully follow them into their adult lives.”
Wanting to support as many children in the county as possible all aspects of the summer program was free to the public.
“Programs like this help close the educational gap,” said Susan Logue, president of Friends of the Library. “It creates equal access so that children have something educational over the summer. We also provide food for all kids which I don’t think a lot of people know.”
In order to encourage reading and help students start their summer goals, all participants were able to pick out a brand new book for free. Popular titles for both teens and children could be seen at various events lined up on tables or filling book carts.
“When I hand a kid a book they’ll ask if they have to bring it back or if they have to pay for it and I tell them ‘No it’s free,’” Brown stated. “They each get a free book when they sign up to add to their library or to start one if they don’t have one.”
Ariana Fabing, who was a participant in the teen group on Tuesday afternoons, also helped out with the younger kids on Thursdays. Stating “you never have a bad time with a kid,” Fabing explained the children’s excitement when getting a book and learning that they get rewards for meeting their goals at the end of the summer.
“They actually get excited about getting books,” Fabing said. “[If meeting ones reading goal] they also get a free pizza, shaved ice, and cookie which encourages them to read.”
Joseph Avila Jr. was one such child who said his favorite part of the summer was reading and getting his book. Avila was able to meet his reading goal of 70 books as of July 26.
Avila’s sister Zaniyah participated in the teen group for the summer. Zaniyah who also met her reading goal at 20 books said her favorite part of the summer was the hands on activities and meeting new friends.
“I liked it [the Reading Program] because it gave us something to do and look forward to,” Zaniyah said. “My favorite part was being able to interact with new people and make friends.”
Jeanette Sanchez, mother to Joseph and Zaniyah, explained to BenitoLink that having programs like this available to the community helps parents foster a love of reading in their children and creates educational opportunities while school is out for the summer.
“I’ve always tried to challenge my kids to make sure they are reading at their reading level,” Sanchez said. “As a parent stuff like this helps over the summer and school year to expand your education.”
For Fabing the library’s summer program has helped her gain new experiences and friends.
“Every day there is something different, so you are always learning something new,” Fabing said. “You are not only learning something new, but you have the ability to meet new people.”
For youth ages 12-18, Tuesdays from 2-3:30 was the designated time for the Teen Summer Reading Program. Activities for teens included creating plastic cup robots, Independence Day rockets, having popcorn with San Francisco State University Professor Judith Munter, and the finale of decorating cupcakes with Lighthouse 55 Bakery owner and pastry chef Lorie Ann Mendoza-Rios on July 24.
When asked about her desire to participate with the county library for their Summer Reading Program Mendoza-Rios stated, “It is helping the community and I am big on reading. Anything that inspires them [youth] to learn and grow I am happy to be involved in.”
For children ages 0-12 the library was open 2-3:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Sticking with the summer theme of “explore other worlds,” participants were able to explore topic areas such as the past, outer space, and the great outdoors. The children’s program wrapped up their summer camp with a carnival on July 26 in which participants played games, ate ice cream, and were able to pick a second book for meeting their reading goals.
For more information on the library or other educational programs for children and adults visit the San Benito County Free Library’s website or call at 831-636-4107.
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