School books soon will be closed. With that last thud, summer draws us outdoors.
As our children swing the doors open, we need to remember they are our future -- and we need to use every opportunity to help each one learn skills for life.
Reading is especially important -- even in summer.
"Creating opportunities for summer learning sets the stage for innovation, creativity and leadership in every community," says the National Summer Learning Association. "The young people we nurture today are the foundation of our society tomorrow."
Ideas abound to get youngsters reading.
We can combine a nature walk through our parks and have children read the signs.
They can read cereal boxes.
We can take them shopping and have them find things to read in the grocery store.
It will be worth the time, with far-reaching effects.
Let's give our youths access to books, newspapers and magazines.
Physical activity is vital to our health, but if we know how to read, it stays with us always.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library website says, "Studies show that kids who read during the summer maintain reading skills that are critical to future school success."
We have no shortage of books.
The system has 22 branches, plus the main library, and is a part of the Central Library Consortium, with 17 partner locations. Add Westerville's library and we have many locations in our area to find a book for free.
The Columbus library kicks off the Summer Reading Challenge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 2 at the main library. The program runs until Aug. 4, with opportunities for readers of all ages to track their progress and earn prizes.
"It is critically important that children always have access to books and reading, whether in school or out, and that parents understand they are their child's first teachers," said Ben Zenitsky, marketing and communications specialist for the library system.
Kelly Wegley, coordinator of academic achievement and professional development for Worthington Schools, agreed, saying, "Reading is important for life. Reading over the summer, even as few as four to six books, has the potential to make a difference in preventing the summer slide."
Not every child has these choices, so libraries have established outreach programs and some work with schools.
"We go to select areas, day cares and preschools where children may not have ready access to books," said Lindsey Smith, outreach with Worthington Libraries. That library system's summer-reading program runs from May 29 to July 29.
"Our help center transitions to the summer-reading program to prevent the slide," Smith said. "We have tons of programs and prizes. Every child who completes the program is entered into a raffle to win a bicycle and everyone who finishes gets a prize."
Upper Arlington has a Summer Library Club for all ages from May 21 to July 31. Patrons can track their reading time, and after 10 hours of reading and 10 activities, such as visiting a park or a library program, they will receive a coupon prize package.
When readers complete 20 hours of the same, they can earn a free book and are entered into a drawing for a grand prize for each age group.
"We have poolside story time on Fridays in June and July," said Christine Minx, the library's marketing and community relations manager. "Kids can include the time they spend listening to stories on their reading log."
Jenni Chatlos of Upper Arlington said her family looks forward to participating in the Summer Library Club each year.
"It gives us a goal to reach," she said. "It's a fun way to keep all of us reading over the summer. Then the kids are better prepared for school in the fall."
Her son, Nate, 6, said, "I like the program because you get to read any book you want. The more you read, the bigger and better prize you get."
Open the pages of a book this summer and see the world through words.
For more information, visit columbuslibrary.org, worthingtonlibraries.org or ualibrary.org, or check out your local library.
Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by Day column for ThisWeek Community News. Contact her at email@example.com.