PORTSMOUTH—The Portsmouth Public Library (PPL) recently celebrated the finale of its summer reading program, and over three-hundred participants were in attendance to bring the summer of continuous programming to a close.
For children aged 12 and under who read and log at least twenty books during the program, the finale is a time to celebrate their literary achievements with the best prize of all: more books. Each participant got to choose a book to take home to keep forever.
Thanks to a generous donation from Camden Park, each child who completed the reading log also went home with a free ticket to the amusement park.
While the summer reading program has finished for now, the staff at the PPL won’t be slowing down any time soon. According to Katie Williams (PPL’s Marketing Manager) and Lisa Lavender (PPL’s Youth Services Supervisor), preparation and planning for the annual summer reading program is nearly a year-round affair.
“We actually work on summer reading about ten months out of the year,” Lavender said. “We will start again around October to get started again on next year. A little break, and then we are right back into it!”
With the goal in mind to fill the educational gaps left from school break, PPL’s summer reading program offered themed programming for children, teens, and adults with one common goal in mind: to keep its participants reading and learning.
“What we ultimately want is to keep kids from backsliding over the summer,” Lavender explained. “We want to offer a program that will get them excited about reading so that they have a reason to want to read. They’re a little competitive too, so they want to keep reading all those books to be able to put in more tickets because they want the grand prize. We are trying to keep kids in the mindset of reading over the summer so that they don’t lose what they learned in school the previous year.”
And when it comes to combatting that learning loss, which educators often refer to as the “summer slide,” a little incentive never hurts. As Lavender stated, in addition to the free book and Camden Park tickets, children had the chance to read additional books to compete for more big prizes. This year: Kings Island tickets, and an iPad Mini.
This year’s summer reading theme, Oceans of Possibility, meant that participants could enjoy various storytimes, crafts, and activities sharing a nautical theme. Not only did this engage participants’ interest in reading, but it led to some creative oceanic activities to round out the program.
“[The children] loved it. We had a water day where they got to play in our front yard and throw [water] balloons at people and spray each other—they loved that. We had a sea monster miniature golf program. They really enjoyed the fairy tale-type aspect of it. We had a lot of people come this year to the program, so we were very happy about that,” Lavender said.
This year’s summer reading finale was the first since the pandemic began to be hosted in person. So the PPL staff knew that with regard to the finale celebration, they had to make up for lost time.
“We had BARKer’s Petting Zoo set up in our Bookmobile garage, we had several carnival games for children [aged] 17 and under. And we switched it up this year and opened it up to teens as well,” Williams explained.
Lavender added, “most of the games were actually created by staff here at the library. They were all thought up as staff ideas.”
While many know that PPL’s summer reading program offers plenty of activities for children, many may not know that adults and teens can join in on the fun, too.
“We actually offer summer reading for adults as well. That’s kind of a surprise to people. We have a lot of patrons who are parents and they bring their kids in every year. We try to do a big push with the adult summer reading; we’ve always had it, but it’s been something that our patrons may not realize. We had 275 adults complete the summer reading program this year. For all ages we also include audio-books and e-books as well, so they are allowed to count those books [too]. We also do this for teens, and we had 75 teens complete summer reading this year—that’s an all-time high,” Williams said.
With themed activities on a continuous basis throughout the program, there is bound to be something that patrons of all ages can enjoy.
For more information about the weekly programming options for patrons of all ages, visit the Portsmouth Public Library online at: yourppl.org.