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Time to Read in Great Falls, McLean

Summer reading programs at local libraries attract children and parents alike.

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Sharon Harmon explains the Summer Reading Program before Charlie Williams (left) takes the stage at Great Falls Library.

School may be out, but Fairfax County Public Libraries are hoping that doesn’t mean students will stop reading. To encourage reading during the summer months, the Great Falls and Dolley Madison public libraries, along with the rest of the county’s libraries, began their annual Summer Reading Program on June 18.

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Vocal impressionist Charlie Williams imitates the sound of air being let out of a balloon during his show, “Eat My Dust,” at an event for the Summer Reading Program at Great Falls Library.

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Joe Pipik begins his show at Dolley Madison Library in McLean with the song “She’ll Be Coming Around the Beltway.”

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After the show, children crowd around a triceratops marionette puppet named Blue at Dolley Madison Library.

“It’s an institution at this point,” Ted Kavich, the libraries’

Program and Educational Services manager, said of the Summer Reading Program. When Kavich began his career with the county’s public libraries 13 years ago, he says the program was already well established.

The program challenges students to read or have read to them a certain number of books depending on their age. Once books are completed, they are listed on the reading log the library provides. A completed log earns each child a coupon book that includes free or discounted items and event admission from sponsors like McDonalds, Krispy Kreme, Splash Down Waterpark and D.C. United Soccer.

THE EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT of the Summer Reading Program goes beyond merely keeping children reading over the summer. According to Kavich, summer reading is instrumental in preparing children to enter the next grade level.

Sharon Harmon, Youth Services manager and a Children’s Librarian at Great Falls Library, agrees. “It keeps their minds active and in school-mode,” Harmon said.

But the program is more than just reading. Fairfax County Public Libraries will also play host to a number of events geared toward families, children and teens over the course of the summer.

On June 24, vocal sound impressionist and children’s comedian Charlie Williams performed at the Great Falls Public Library. During the event, Williams demonstrated some of his favorite sounds—among them the sound of a helicopter, rainstorm and that last bit of ketchup being squeezed from its nearly empty bottle. Williams also taught his audience how to make their own sounds and how to incorporate those sounds into the stories they tell.

Joe Pipik and his BackPack Puppets from the Goodlife Theatre performed The Fabulous Five Senses/Dinosaur Show at Dolley Madison Library in McLean on June 27. The event features songs about the five senses and a one-man puppet show performed by Pipik about a time-travelling puppet that finds himself in the age of the dinosaurs.

The event may be countywide, but branches like Great Falls make the Summer Reading Program special for their patrons with activities and events unique to their branch. A large jar nearly bursting with candy, featured prominently near the library’s entrance, is a draw for many young visitors, says Harmon. The child who guesses the amount of candy in the jar most accurately is rewarded with its contents at the ice cream social the branch hosts at the end of the summer.

THE SUMMER READING PROGRAM isn’t just popular with the libraries’ younger patrons, but with their parents as well, who say the program is an engaging way to keep their children reading without the assignment feeling like a chore.

“We love the candy jar and the coupon book,” Kathy Mattay of Great Falls said. Her sons Mason, 13, Michael, 11, and Hayden, 7, are all participating in the Summer Reading Program this year.

Students can register for the Summer Reading Program and branch events online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library. The program will run until Aug. 31.