David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
David Payne: And for today's episode we're turning to summer, read and learn the MCPL Summer Reading Program and joining us today, we welcome the return of two guests who are very knowledgeable in that subject. Both members of the MCPL Summer Read and Learn Committee, Christine Freeman, the Acting Branch Manager and the Olney branch, welcome back Christine.
Christine Freeman: Thanks for having me.
David Payne: And Amy Alapati, the Head of the Children's Services at Damascus Library. Welcome back Amy, good to see you again.
Amy Alapati: Thanks, it's exciting to be here.
David Payne: And to begin with, let's talk a bit about the Summer Read and Learn Program. As we head into summer, the weather is warmer or hopefully weather's warmer. School's out, summer camp is in, people go on vacation. But why is Summer Read and Learn so important as a program?
Christine Freeman: So summer reading programs help to prevent summer slide according to American libraries magazine, children who read four to five books over the summer help prevents them from experience a loss in reading achievement. We know that children from low income families are at the highest risk for summer learning loss and summer reading is a way that the library can help to close the academic achievement gap. And also it's fun.
David Payne: It's fun too yeah. Amy, do you have anything to add?
Amy Alapati: Well, as with any learning, any skill that we learn, if we don't practice it, we easily forget it. So practicing reading during the summer helps keep up that scale. But on top of that, the Montgomery County Public Library Summer Reading and Learning Program, engages kids and connects them to books and literature in a fun way, combining reading with hands on activities.
David Payne: There you are, you heard it the fun way.
Julie Dina: It sounds great. Well, now that we know how important it is to read over the summer, can you tell us specifically about MCPL Summer Read and Learn Program, for example, when does it start, when does it end and things like that?
Christine Freeman: So the program will start on June 15th that's a Saturday after kids get to school and it would be ready at the branches to sign people up, sign kids up. It does end on August 31st that's the last day of our program.
Julie Dina: Amy?
Amy Alapati: If you want to know how to sign up for the Summer Reading Program, it's all online through the library website. We use an interface called Beanstack. So you can sign up at home using your own computer or tablet or you can sign up in person at the library. Either way, you need to make sure to visit the library in person to pick up your game board and your minor league baseball ticket at the information desk of any Montgomery County Library after you sign up.
Julie Dina: And now can anyone participate in this program?
Christine Freeman: We do have programs for zero to age 17, so we have a program for little ones, early literacy zero to five. We have an elementary school program, six to 12 and a team program 13 to 17.
David Payne: So, does one need a library card to take part in the read and learn?
Amy Alapati: No, you don't need a library card, although it would be great to get one because it is free and it gives you access to tens of thousands of books, movies, audio books, exclusive online resources and so much more.
David Payne: And is there a theme this year?
Christine Freeman: There is a theme, it's a universe of stories in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this summer and we will be celebrating all things space.
Julie Dina: And for those who cannot see – actually David is already celebrating…
David Payne: I’m already into it already…
Julie Dina: Because he's wearing a tie with the moon and space, but that's really cute and fun.
David Payne: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, now that you've mentioned there's a theme, if there's a way we can talk a little bit about the team program for this year, because I know for my outreach I do get a lot of teens asking me if they have anything specific for teens during the Summer Read and Learn Program. Can we touch a little bit on that?
Amy Alapati: So teens also sign up online and track their activities online, but instead of a game board, they'll pick up a bookmark and each time they complete an activity and log it online, they'll earn a raffle ticket. The activities include things like sign up for summer reading, that's an easy one. Read for one hour, attend a library program and write a book review. They can repeat those last three activities as many times as they want to earn more raffle tickets, but now that they've earned the raffle tickets, they're eligible for two different types of raffle. One is a branch raffle and the other is a system wide raffle. The branch raffles for free books are held every other Friday in July and August. Teens just need to earn at least three raffle tickets to be eligible for those. But there are also county wide raffles to win themed prize packs, including one with a classic Super Nintendo. For those raffles, teens have to earn at least six raffle tickets by August 31st and they get one entry per person. The drawing will be held on September the 3rd and there are eight different themes for those prize packs. Did you want to hear more about those?
David Payne: I think so, yeah.
Amy Alapati: All right, so there's the at the movies theme, which includes an AMC gift card, popcorn, drinks, candy and books. There's a book nerd themed Bundle that includes a kindle fire and several author autographed books and a bookmark. There's an Instax pack, which is an Instax Mini 9 camera. The case, the film that goes with it, Selfie Lens and a Color Lens, a photo album, a frame and some stickers. The forth pack is a Harry Potter Pack, which includes the board game, Harry Potter Clue, a coloring book, a Griffin door water bottle, a Mischief Managed PopSocket. There's a gaming bundle that includes that Nintendo classic edition, also a $25 GameStop Gift Card and a Game Boy Stadium Cup. There's a music lover pack that's includes a $25 iTunes Gift Card and Mpow Bluetooth headphone set and Oontz Angle Bluetooth speaker. There is an artwork pack with an iPhone charger, a sticker face set, a coloring journal and markers, pen and pencil set. There's a doodles notebook in that and a watch from a draw at the game and a flipbook kit. There's a lot packed into that one pack. And the final one is an anime and Manga themed box, which includes a Bento box, Manga drawing book and kit, a Crunchyroll mystery box, Origami paper and a book and some chopsticks.
Christine Freeman: Lots of fun stuff. And I've played that classic and yes it's lots of fun.
Julie Dina: I've got to say though, after hearing all those prizes, can I be a teen again?
Christine Freeman: We’re hoping it will inspire them to come, look at our programs and do lots of activities in reading with us this summer.
David Payne: Certainly a great selection.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: So if someone is lucky enough to bet to be a winner, how will they know they've won a raffle prize?
Amy Alapati: A staff member will contact them by email or phone number.
David Payne: Okay. What’s the last date for actually picking up the prizes?
Amy Alapati: For the teen program, the raffle doesn't happen until September. So there will be a deadline given then, but for the kids program, the last day to pick up prizes is August the 31st, and we will notify about individual branch prizes for raffles and those – the staff will let them know when the last day the pickup is.
Julie Dina: Well, it's known that generally for summer reading it always comes with lots of reading, but this year everyone's wondering are there going to be other activities which are not just limited to just reading books for our Summer Read and Learn Program?
Christine Freeman: We do have many activities that kids can choose from. They can actually read a book or do an activity depending on what the kids want to do. So the activities might be like go out and look at constellations in the sky, visit our local planetarium, read a book outside with your caregivers, lots of fun things to choose from.
Julie Dina: So sort of like different activities for 1000 books, where it's not just limited to reading and you can sing along?
Christine Freeman: Exactly. And if you have children that are preschool, toddlers or babies sign up for both 1000 books and summer reading, because then you get double the prizes and its lots of fun.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Going back to the prizes and I've been asked this question, can you explain to us why does MCPL award prizes for summer reading?
Amy Alapati: Well, kids who love reading will always read just for the fun of it. They don't really need any incentives to get them to read, but some kids need extra encouragement to read and they're exactly the kids who can benefit the most from reading throughout the summer. So since they're a little more reluctant to read, we offer small incentives or prizes to make it even more fun.
Christine Freeman: And we hand out those incentives, we always make a big deal about the accomplishments. We do a lot of praise, a lot of well done, good job and try to help them find more books to read or other activities to pick out as they go along. And this is the first year that MCPL will be giving away books as prizes for those kids that complete, we’re very excited.
Julie Dina: We know everyone looks forward to the highlights of activities and events for the summer read and learn program. What are the highlights you'd like to share with us today?
Christine Freeman: Well, each library has a variety of special events for kids of all ages. So you need to check the website for a complete listing. That's www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library. But to give you some examples, there are family science nights, there are puppet shows, dance programs, magic shows, music, live reptile shows, weekly story times, stem workshops, including those by Energy Express and science in the summer, there's read to a dog at many libraries, there are coding and animation workshops, book clubs, makerspaces, live farm animals, a traveling planetarium and at least one laser light show.
Christine Freeman: So if you have children at home bored and you don't know what to do, take them to the library.
Amy Alapati: And it's all free.
Christine Freeman: Free, it can't get better than that.
David Payne: That’s right.
Julie Dina: Do they have to register for any of these events?
Amy Alapati: Each library has a different system and it can vary from program to program even within the library. So some libraries might give out free tickets just before the program starts. Some might start giving them out in a week or week or two, in advance. Some of them will have online registration, but it depends on the event. So it's definitely important to check the website or check with your local library to find out how to register or get a ticket or just show up for the program that you want to attend.
David Payne: So Amy and Christine, you've had quite a bit of involvement over yes with MCPL Summer Read and Learn Programs. What do you both enjoy about the Summer Read and Learn Program? Let me start with Christine.
Christine Freeman: I think for me it's a sense of accomplishment when a child finishes and they come in and it's very exciting just to see how their eyes like light up and you hand them little prizes, because for them that's important. They accomplished a lot by doing all these activities of reading over the summer. So I never get tired of that, it's always exciting for me to be out on the desk when the kids come up.
David Payne: Right.
Amy Alapati: It lets us make a real connection with the kids when they come in to tell us what they've read and how excited they are, but like selfishly I also love decorating for the theme to get everyone excited about joining. And especially this year, because I'm a real science fiction fan, I love astronomy; I wish I could be a space explorer. I like dressing for the theme, so you will find me in some pretty spacey outfits this year.
Christine Freeman: And just to know that she does have constellation pants on and star slippers on and a moon shirt.
Amy Alapati: Just to get in the mood.
Julie Dina: Christine, did you have anything to add to it?
Christine Freeman: I think just I loved the chaos in the summer. I love when all the kids are out of school and asking for books and I just love that, I feed off it, it’s an exciting time.
Amy Alapati: They bring an energy.
Christine Freeman: Yes.
Amy Alapati: A tangible energy to the library in the summer, that's really exciting for all of the staff.
Christine Freeman: And if you're like me, you feed off of the excitement of summer reading.
David Payne: And it was nice to see you know children who you've introduced to the library during the summer, then you see them again over the course of the school year.
Amy Alapati: Yes.
Christine Freeman: And we do try to do class visits and we do see those kids in the classroom come into the library and say, “Oh, I remember you at our class.” they come and visit us.
Amy Alapati: Even sometimes when you're at the supermarket and they're 20-years-old and they say, “I remember you came to my classroom 10 years ago and taught about summer reading.” It's great.
Julie Dina: What a great feeling.
Amy Alapati: It makes a real impact on their lives, it does.
David Payne: It does and they remember, yeah, absolutely yeah.
Julie Dina: So with all that excitement going on, will the library be providing a summer reading list this year. I know in past years we always have and if we are doing that this year, how can customers find that list?
Amy Alapati: The lists are all on the library website on the summer reading page. So the links to the graded book lists are there and they're there all year round. So, once the lists for 2019 go up, they will stay on there until 2020 rolls around on the kids' site.
Christine Freeman: And don't forget that we do have book lists for babies, toddlers and preschoolers on a 1000 books before kindergarten website as well.
David Payne: So talking of reading this, could you both recommend any good books for this summer or ones that fit this year summer reading theme Christine?
Christine Freeman: So I brought with me today ‘The First Men Who Went to the Moon’ by Rhonda Gowler Greene and this is a nonfiction book, pretty new, I think that would appeal to lots of lots of kids. And then I brought one of our new VOX books. So VOX books are books that can talk and they can read along with your children. And I have a book in front of me called ‘How do Space Vehicles Work’ by Buffy Silverman. I'm pretty sure I'll be taking this home for my grandson when he comes to visit.
Amy Alapati: There were so many books I wanted to talk about right now, so I'll just talk about a few. And Christine mentioned one of them, ‘The First Men Who Went to the Moon.’ But Frank Cottrell Boyce has written a book called Cosmic for it's a children's fiction chapter book and also he wrote ‘Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth’ and they're both funny and poignant and charming and have appeal to both boys and girls. ‘Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon’ by Torben Kuhlmann in our children's fiction collection is another good one that is mostly illustrated with amazing illustrations, but not quite a graphic novel. Although ‘Cleopatra in Space’ by Mike Maihack is a graphic novel that kids would enjoy. ‘Mousetronaut’ by Mark Kelly if you're looking for a picture book, would be an excellent choice. He Mark Kelly is of course an astronaut and he wrote a charming picture book about a little mouse that goes to space and he notes that it is mainly a true story. I wonder which part is not. ‘Spaced Out’ by Stuart Gibbs takes place completely on the moon for mystery fans that would be a good choice. Some nonfiction that I enjoyed recently, Almost Astronauts, 13 women who dared to dream about women who were in the space program in the 1960s and didn't get to be astronauts, but were in the space program. So that was an exciting one by Tanya Lee stone. And another children's nonfiction book, ‘The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal’ by Nick Seluk, Sun is a Big Deal, it keeps us alive and you can find out how by reading that book.
Julie Dina: It sounds really good, Amy.
Amy Alapati: There are so many more, but…
David Payne: That's a great stock. Christine, you mentioned the VOX books. Can you just take a minute to tell us what makes them different rather children's books and where can they be found in the library?
Christine Freeman: So this can be found in our libraries throughout Montgomery County Public Library System. And so you can actually turn them on and they will read to your children. So after you've read the book for the 10th time and they want to read the 11 time, you can let them listen to it and they can actually read along with the book. Look at the pictures, see how the words connect to the sounds really, really cool and very popular.
David Payne: They are indeed, yeah.
Amy Alapati: My favorite part of the VOX books is that the little sound that they make to let the children know when to turn the page often is reflective of the topic of the book. So the book about helicopters, it's the sound of a helicopter…
Julie Dina: Taking off?
Amy Alapati: Yeah, taking off and I just think that that's really creative. The duck one has a little duck quacking every time it's time to turn the page, so.
Christine Freeman: What I like about this, like when we were kids, we had the cassette, right? You put the cassette in and it comes unwound, I’m showing my age here. But these ones all one piece, you can't lose a part of it, so that's great.
Amy Alapati: And they can use them with ear-buds or listened to them from speaker that's included in the phone.
David Payne: Yup.
Julie Dina: You know when I listen to the two of you, your excitement and you know I can see it in your eyes how you love talking about summer reading and you know all the great things that come along with it. Now that we've touched on that, could you share any memory that you have either with your children or at any of the branches where you’ve worked in relationship to summer read and learn program?
Amy Alapati: Well, professionally one of my favorite memories is one year we were putting the kids' names up on the wall as they finish the program and we would trace each child's hand and then they would cut it out and they would write their name on it. And so we had this whole wall of all different size hands, all different colors. It was just charming all those little hands up on the wall.
Julie Dina: Ooh.
Christine Freeman: I think for me at Noyes, we present a medal when they do the challenge, which is when they do 12 planets this year. And what we like to do at Noyes is when we give the medal, we announce the name and everybody who's in the room will start clapping. So you can just see how excited and how much pride they have when we put the medal over their heads and when everybody is clapping for them, it’s so exciting.
David Payne: Now we talk about the importance of reading over the summer period. What are some tips that you can share for parents to encourage their children to read over the summer? I’ll start with you Amy?
Amy Alapati: Kids are great imitators, if they see their parents and the other adults in their lives dedicating time to reading, they'll get that it's important and a fun thing to do. Family read alouds are a great way to involve everyone. Even when your kids are old enough to read on their own, you can try a chapter a night together and if you're going on a road trip, you can check out some of the audio books to listen to in the car. You can get them on CD or you can check them out electronically. Pick something the whole family will enjoy and then talk about what you're listening to. And you can always ask a librarian for suggestions if you're just not sure what to choose.
Christine Freeman: I think it’s important we want to make sure that reading is an enjoyable activity. It is a matter of what they're reading, if they are reading graphic novels, nonfiction, electronically they’re listening to it or they are reading on a kindle or an iPad. As long as they're reading, it's going to help them in the future.
Julie Dina: Well, it's that part of the show where we usually like to ask our guests what they're currently reading. Let’s start with you, Christine, what are you currently reading?
Christine Freeman: I'm currently reading ‘Before the Devil Breaks You’ by Libba Bray, is part of the Diviners series. I really like it, it's a YA novel and I just finished reading, One Good Thing about America by Ruth Freeman. We're going to start our social justice book club this month at Olney, and that's the book we'll be discussing this month.
Julie Dina: Amy.
Amy Alapati: And like Christine, I’m never reading just one book. So I'm reading a children's ghost story called Trace, it's by Pat Cummings. I'm also reading a children's science fiction story by Margaret Peterson Haddix called The Strangers, it's her new series. And in the car I'm listening to Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell, which has a history of Hawaii.
David Payne: Some great multitasking there.
Julie Dina: Yes, they're the super-fun librarians. Well, I want to thank both of you for coming to the show this afternoon and sharing all those wonderful news about Summer Read and Learn. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcasts, we'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today, see you next time.