Digging into a good book

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Sheri Simcox, For The Lancaster News

This summer, 860 children participated in the “Dig Into Reading,” summer reading program at the Lancaster County Main Branch and Kershaw County libraries, said Brenda Parker, children’s librarian for the Lancaster County Library.

“The summer reading program is fun for kids because taking home prizes and taking home books is fun. You get to be in the middle of all these books, and I love that. I love books, and books are fun,” said Parker, known in Lancaster as “Ms. Brenda.” 

Parker says due to tremendous participation, the success of this year’s program would not be possible without Lancaster’s First Baptist Church providing additional space through the use of its family life center and the Friends of Lancaster County Library sponsorship.

During the three-month-long summer program, children attended performances, earned prizes for reading, ate pizza and – of course – read.

“I like the animal books. I liked ‘Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?’ I got a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a medal,” said three-year-old Riles Hilton, who participated in the program with his twin sister, Alexis.

The Dig Into Reading calendar of events also included the Columbia Marionette Puppets, professional juggler Todd Key, Pork Chop Productions, Rob Lowery and Mr. Music Biz (also known as “The Music Man) as part of the “Terrific Tuesdays for Kids of All Ages” performers.

“Our program talks about how the performers learn about magic or whatever they learn to do through reading. Magicians learn about magic. Jugglers learn about juggling. We have books about all these things they learned about,” Parker said.

The performers incorporated related differnt books for ages 0-13 into their shows.

“We always show the books, so the children connect them to the puppet, magic and other shows,” Parker said.

In addition to Terrific Tuesdays, the summer reading program offered “Teddy Bear Time” for ages 2-3 and “Storybook Theater” for ages 4-8. 

During these programs, the children experienced read-alouds, poetry, storytelling and puppet shows each Monday with Parker.

“Teddy Bear Time kept the kids engaged. Ms. Brenda did puppet shows. They (my twins) looked forward to it each time,” said Dana Hilton, mother of Alexis and Riles. “They are looking forward to it next year.”

Parker said children not as into performances or who were unable to attend Teddy Bear Time were still involved by independently reading and logging their books to receive prizes. 

These children participated in the program by contributing to the total 2,601 hours clocked in by young readers at the Lancaster and Kershaw libraries.

Within these hours, 39 children won prizes for reading 15 hours; 22 children won prizes for reading 10 hours and 136 children won prizes for reading five hours.

“I read books and I got a medal. I read 30 hours,” Alexis said. “I got a paper from Ms. Brenda. I love Ms. Brenda.”

Besides logging hours and winning prizes, this summer’s “diggers of reading” were assisted in retaining learned information from the previous school year.

“We can try to make up for what they missed from the school year and make reading fun. I was a teacher, so I know the students lose skills at any age over the summer. Hopefully they can keep their reading skills and levels high,” said Parker, who taught third and fourth grade in Oklahoma City.

“Dig Into Reading” was the nationwide summer reading program theme. 

Next year’s plans and information are in the works and will be distributed to the children’s librarians when ready.

“All of the children’s librarians meet in September at the state library. Every state in the union has the same theme. We meet and receive notebooks filled with materials, ideas and games. It’s reallly neat,” Parker said.

Parker said she is already planning for the 2014 summer reading program and performance line-up with a traditional kickoff, tentatively set for the Saturday before Memorial Day.

“Probably some of the same performers will return,” Parker said. “Todd Key, the juggler, was amazing. They really enjoyed him. ‘The Music Man,’ Rob Lowery, was a fill-in on July 9. The kids told me he was their favorite this year. We try to shop around.”

For information on upcoming reading programs or Lancaster County Library, call (803) 285-1502.