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Children Dig Into Reading

Summer reading program sparks enthusiasm in area libraries.

Richard Byrd Library Branch Manager Sally Eckard shows a young reader information about the summer reading program.

Richard Byrd Library Branch Manager Sally Eckard shows a young reader information about the summer reading program. Eleanor Lamb

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Children watch with excitement as Safari Bingo displays her dog’s dancing skills at Burke Centre Library.

This year’s summer reading program in Fairfax County libraries provides children and their parents with enriching opportunities they can sink their hands into.

The program, titled Dig into Reading, began June 18 and runs until Aug. 31. It stipulates that children from preschool to sixth grade read 15 books, and those from seventh to 12th grade read eight books. If they complete the program, the kids are rewarded with a coupon book that offers discounts at fun venues, such as Splash Down Waterpark and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

“I think it’s a cool title,” said Linda Schlekau, branch manager of the Burke Centre Library. “It says ‘get below the surface.’ Read deeply. Enjoy literacy.”

The librarians are not the only ones who thrill at the advent of summer reading. Parents are excited about the idea of their kids enriching their minds and keeping themselves busy. Kids will be able to capitalize on the opportunity to read whatever they want because they will not have to abide by the strictures of school assignments.

“[Reading’s important] because it helps you learn. I like Captain Underpants,” said 8-year-old Alex Kowalski of Lorton.

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Erin O’Toole of Springfield helps her son get ready for summer reading at the Richard Byrd Library.

PARENTS ARE ESPECIALLY HAPPY because Dig into Reading ensures that their children will not waste away playing video games for hours on end or spending the day lounging in front of the television. Instead, they will be trying to complete their summer reading log. The program provides an incentive for valuable mental exercise.

“It’s a great way to keep them engaged,” said father Ron Kowalski of Lorton. “It makes reading more accessible and keeps it more at the top of their minds.”

If children are overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of summer reading, they have only to consult the summer reading sign up desk, which is stationed in all county libraries. The desk has lists of authors the librarians recommend, as well as lists of books that schools make them read. These options provide a wide range of suggestions, from classics like Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” to new hits such as “Life as We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

“We have a lot of good books beyond any we could ever list,” said Sally Eckard, branch manager of the Richard Byrd Library.

Dig into Reading offers more than a coupon book to be earned at the end of the summer. The program includes many free events that occur at local libraries throughout the season. Such diversions include Los Quetzales, a Mexican dance group, and Paws to Read, a reading session with a therapy dog.

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Safari Bingo creates a gigantic bubble around the head of a Burke Centre librarian at a children’s event.

ONE RECENT EVENT that families swarmed to was Safari Bingo’s Animals, which was held at Burke Centre Library. Safari Bingo, a clown with unique animal friends, brought out an African hedgehog and taught children about their habits. She also brought along a small dog, who performed a dancing trick while donning a tutu.

“It encourages community,” said mother Janice Lauffer of Burke. “We just signed up!”

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Los Quetzales show off their dance moves at an event at Richard Byrd Library.

Lauffer’s children are amongst hordes of others joining the program. As of Tuesday morning, there were 8,014 children and teens signed up online, to say nothing of the multitudes of people who registered in person.

“The most important thing is to keep kids reading over the summer,” said Ted Kavich, Program and Educational Services manager of the Fairfax County Public Libraries. “They need to keep up their skills. That way, they’re ready for a grade up in the fall.”