On June 1, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library kicked off their annual “Summer Break” learning program.
The program, which officially began on June 1 and runs through August 13, encourages participants to read 20 minutes per day as well as complete additional learning activities throughout the summer months. Participants track their reading and other activities online. To complete the program, participants must must log 20 hours of reading or 10 hours of reading and 10 additional learning activities by August 13.
Many people may be familiar with, and perhaps still mistakenly refer to the library’s summer programming as, “summer reading.” When the library first began offering summer programming, the focus was on getting children to read more during the summer months when they were not in school. “The impetus at the beginning was to avoid something called the ‘summer slide,’” says Mint Hill Librarian Melanie Lewis. “The idea that kids are metaphorically climbing a ladder with their learning all year long, and then summer comes, and they stop learning.” The idea of the library’s summer programming was to keep kids’ brains active so they are still at the top of the metaphorical ladder when they return to school in the fall.
Over the course of the years, the program has expanded in two key ways. Reading is still an important component, but the name change reflects the program’s expansion to include much more than just reading. “The idea is that children and adults learn in different ways. They don’t necessarily learn through reading,” says Lewis.
“Read” is only one of six categories participants can choose from when logging summer activities. In addition to reading, participants are encouraged to write, create, explore, play and give. The library’s web site includes suggestions for each category of activity, and you may be pleasantly surprised to see that their suggestions incorporate activities you already do regularly with your family. For example, the “write” category includes things like writing in a journal or writing an original poem, but it also suggests activities like having your child help you make a shopping list. “Create” includes not only making artwork but also things like planting seeds or trying a new recipe. “Play” includes activities like visiting a playground, practicing a sport and swimming. There are also activities suggested that are appropriate for very young children, such as coloring or stacking blocks.
The current Spring Break program is open not only to children but all age groups, making Summer Break a community activity that emphasizes the importance of reading and continuing to learn at all ages. “A lot of people try to associate it with kids, but it is for everyone,” says Lewis. The dashboard where participants log their activities is designed to be convenient for families and make it easy to log activities completed together. “We love the idea of promoting family togetherness,” says Lewis.
The library offers incentives to everyone who participates in and completes the summer break program. Everyone who signs up for Summer Break immediately receives a $5.00 fine voucher and a voucher for a Wendy’s frosty. Everyone who completes the program will receive a free book. There are multiple levels and titles to choose from for children from birth through age 18.
In prior years, prizes were limited to children, but this year the library will also award adults who complete the program with the “Community Read” title, Marie Semple’s Today Will be Different. Semple’s book will be the focus of events and activities that take place at the library during the month of October. “The idea is that everyone reads the same book, and that way everyone will always have something to talk about,” says Lewis, who calls this a great way to get the community read title in people’s hands so they have read it or have a copy when October rolls around.
Participants will also be eligible to win prizes in county-wide weekly drawings. Anyone who has recorded any type of activity for the week and has a library card and valid email address will be entered in the weekly drawings. Lewis describes the prizes as “experience-based” incentives: tickets for events like Verse & Vino or admissions to places like Discovery Place.
You may think you have to fight traffic and travel uptown to Imaginon to take advantage of the library’s summer lineup, but there are plenty of events taking place right here in Mint Hill. Fiddlestix, Hugo’s Book Bus, The Nature Lady and Professor Whizzpop are just a few examples of the special presenters scheduled to visit the Mint Hill library. The library will also be offering a program called “Get Set 4 K” aimed at helping preschoolers transition to kindergarten in the fall. The four-part series will cover topics like using the bathroom or visiting the cafeteria at school. The library will also be showing kid-friendly movies throughout the summer; the first one will be Moana on June 23. A full schedule of summer events, including events geared toward teens and adults, is available on the library’s web site.
The summer break program is free and open to everyone from newborns to seniors citizens. You do not need a library card to participate. To enroll, visit summerbreak.cmlibrary.org and click “Get Started.” Parents can complete this step for young children. The program runs through August 13, and it’s never too late to sign up. Although there is a limit to the number of activities you can log in a single day, you can go back and log activities for the whole duration of the program.