For many children, summer marks the end of school and possibly a temporary halt to learning. However, summer can be a good opportunity for children to participate in programs that encourage reading during the academic off-season.
The Lawrence Public Library is offering three summer reading programs for children. Mary Paretsky, head of the children's department of the library, said such programs provide the kind of enjoyment other types of summer activities cannot.
"Reading can be done for adventure, or for knowledge, or for relaxation, or just for the satisfaction of finishing a book," Paretsky said. "We like to see children lost in a book, because most of all, reading should be done for fun."
All of the library's programs are free, and are geared for different levels of readers.
THE FIRST program involves an older person reading at least 20 books to the child, and there are several prizes available to participants who are read the 20-book minimum.
Diane Nielsen, an assistant professor specializing in reading, writing and children's literature in Kansas University's education school, said reading aloud provides a good chance for all family members to enjoy reading.
"(Parents) shouldn't just say `go sit and read,' but there ought to be a time when everyone in the family can read. The family can take turns reading. It involves everyone and makes reading much more fun," Nielsen said.
The library's second program, also available to younger children, requires reading at least 20 books. Prizes also are available in this program.
And, finally, a program for those readers between sixth grade and junior high requires reading 10 books, but at least one book in each of five different categories.
PARTICIPANTS in this program must read one historical book, a work of fiction, a biography, a fantasy book and a book of poetry. The remaining five books are chosen by the reader but must be from a challenging reading level.
Nielsen said that from sixth grade on, children are in a "fragile time" for reading because they become increasingly involved in various activities that demand time.
But she suggests that peer pressure can be directed to promote reading in the summer.
"Parents can set up a time when the neighbor kids come over to read. You would be amazed at the ideas that are sparked by sharing," Nielsen said. "As soon as friends say `that's a really good book,' children are eager to see what it's about."
ACCORDING to Nielsen, family trips to the library can help children become interested in reading.
"Going to the library should become one of the traditions that a family builds. Parents need to establish certain routines so kids know when they will have time to read," Nielsen said.
Readers can join the library's summer reading programs starting Tuesday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. And readers can sign up for the programs starting June 3 at one of five area schools. The programs will be offered six consecutive Wednesdays at East Heights, Kennedy, New York, Wakarusa Valley and Woodlawn schools.
For more information, call the public library at 843-3833.