When Sandra Brogdon's 5-year-old son, Makai, asked to participate in the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Summer Reading Challenge, she saw it as an opportunity to foster his inquisitive nature and broaden his horizons, she said.

"He loves reading," said Brogdon, a New Albany resident.

Summer reading serves not only as a source of entertainment for children but also as a way to prevent them from losing the literacy skills they learned in the classroom, according to education experts.

Studies have shown children can lose up to three months of reading skills over the summer, causing them to have to relearn some things when they return to school in the fall, said Leanna Hampton, a youth-services librarian at the New Albany branch of Columbus Metropolitan Library, 200 Market St.

For example, Columbus City Schools students who participated in the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge had similar reading scores on their MAP tests from spring to fall in 2016, Hampton said.

MAP, which stands for Measures of Academic Progress, assesses student growth.

"Most of our programs are created with that in mind," Hampton said.

The Summer Reading Challenge is a reading-incentive program that tracks the minutes children and adults read books so that they can become eligible to earn prizes and raffle entries, Hampton said.

The program, for which participants can register at www.columbuslibrary.org, runs through Aug. 4, Hampton said. A library card is required to register and the program is open to all ages.

Readers can earn extra points for attending library programs and writing book reviews, she said. In addition, although the library's reading-buddies program is held throughout the year, it is held more often during the summer, Hampton said, at four times per week. Depending on the day, children can get group or individual read-aloud practice through the program.

"That's one of our really popular programs," Hampton said.

Typically, 15 to 20 children attend, she said.

On Tuesdays, volunteers bring in Maddie and Strider -- dogs trained through the Pet Partners organization -- so children can read to them.

Reluctant readers often will visit the library to read to the dogs, Hampton said. Studies have shown that reading aloud to animals can help with confidence and fluency skills, because children aren't focused on whether human listeners are judging them, she said.

The library also offers storytimes for children 4 and under, and those can bring in more 80 people, Hampton said.

Finally, the library schedules several performances throughout the summer.

All performers are encouraged to have elements of their programs that encourage reading and checking out books over the summer, she said.

For example, Steve Harpster, an author and illustrator, led children in drawing exercises during the Monsters, Heroes and Video Game Creator program June 14 at the library. On July 10, the Ironwood Wolves organization will bring a fox to the New Albany library branch and discuss foxes in folklore, Hampton said. The organization will return to the library July 24 with a wolf to present facts and myths about the animal, she said.

Popular programs such as the Turtle Lady -- aka Nancy Lockard, who brings amphibians and reptiles to the system's libraries -- will be attended by 100 or more people, Hampton said.

During her events, Lockard references library books about the animals she introduces.

"Usually, those books are gone at the end of storytime," Hampton said.

For more information, go to columbuslibrary.org.