STEVENSVILLE — Whoever said summer reading is a drag hasn’t been to the Queen Anne’s Public Library this summer. On July 31, parents and children gathered at the library in Stevensville for the Summer Reading Wrap-Up, an event to celebrate the end of the library’s annual summer reading program. Children built structures with Legos, made art pieces on paper plates, watched science demonstrations and talked about the books they’ve read this summer.
George Burchill, a 9-year-old from Stevensville, said his favorite books this summer have been the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan. The rising fourth-grader has read 21 books so far over summer vacation, all several hundred pages long. Asked how he could read so much in that amount of time, he laughed, saying, “Most of the day I read.”
The library’s summer reading program, adapted from a collaborative curriculum available in 40 states, has been popular among children in Queen Anne’s for more than a decade. The program offers three age groups in order to get kids from pre-k to high school reading during the summer months. The program reward readers who complete assignments with chances to win prizes like gift cards, an iPod nano, and tickets baseball games.
Julie Ranelli, the youth services librarian at the Kent Island branch of the Queen Anne’s County Free Library, has directed the summer reading program for nine years. She said participation in this year’s program was 25 percent higher than it has ever been, with 1,018 kids total. She said that although most participants are in elementary school, she has seen a lot more teenagers than in years past. Teen often have mandatory summer reading assignments. “We’re saying ‘well, you’re reading for school anyway, why not sign up with us?’” Ranelli said.
This year’s theme, “Fizz, Boom, Read,” was based around science and engineering, and the library held science-based activities each week to accompany its reading program. Ranelli said the idea is to get kids continuing to learn and engage with academic material when they are not in school.
Amy Thomas of Stevensville said she has been bringing her two sons, Brendan and Trevor, to the library every Monday during the summer because they loved being a part of the science club. On top of conducting experiments, playing with Legos and learning about how the world works, she said that her boys would check out 13 books to read each week. “You come for the books, but they have all these other activities to do,” Thomas said.
Although the summer reading program has come to a close, winners for the biggest prizes are yet to be announced. One lucky student will get the chance to go on the field and be recognized for their reading accomplishments at an Orioles game later this summer. Another child will win a family membership to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore for a whole year.
Ranelli believes the popularity of the summer program will continue to grow, and she’s already preparing for next year’s theme, “Every Hero has a Story,” which will focus on the stories of real-life heroes.