The Fairfax County Public Library began its Summer Reading Challenge on June 23, with this year’s theme being “Read for the Win.” The program, which includes preschoolers through high-schoolers, runs from June 23 until Sept. 3. Ted Kavich, the Program and Educational Services manager at Fairfax County Public Library is in charge of the Summer Reading Challenge. Kavich says, “the summer slide is the motivator for all of this,” explaining that if children do not read during the summer, their skills regress and when they return to school in the fall, they need to catch up.
Last year, more than 54,000 children participated in the Summer Reading Challenge and that number is set increase this summer, as it has every summer, thanks to a combination of advertising in the libraries, news releases, social media postings and a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools.
Children who complete the challenge receive a coupon book full of deals ranging from free ice cream at Shake Shack, tickets to a D.C. United soccer game or to discounted water park tickets. In addition, the libraries bring various performers for family events throughout the summer.
Children in the third grade and below must read 15 books, and parents reading to their children counts towards the 15-book goal. Fourth through sixth-graders have to read 10 books, and seventh grader through high school must read six books.
The children are free to select any book they choose. The library offers book selections, but as Kavich says, assigned reading is for the school year, not the summer.
A host of sponsors make the Summer Reading Challenge possible every summer. Among other sponsors, the Friends of the George Mason Regional Library in Annandale donated $50,000 to the program, while the Fairfax Library Foundation donated $17,000 and the Friends of the Kings Park Library in Burke contributed $7,500.
The Summer Reading Challenge dates all the way back to 1941. The coupon prize book was introduced to the Summer Reading Challenge in 1997. Last year, over 25,000 kids completed the program.