Participation in the annual summer reading program at the Beaufort County Public Library has hit an all-time high. At the close of registration July 11, more than 3,500 children and teens had signed up to read books this summer.
Why is the program so important? In "The Role of Public Libraries in Children's Literacy Development: An Evaluation Report," researchers Donna Celano and Susan B. Neuman share significant research findings on ways public libraries foster literacy skills through summer reading programs. In the 2001 report funded through the Library Services and Technology Act, Celano and Neuman conclude that libraries continue to play a major role in fostering literacy, especially among those most needing assistance in developing literacy skills such as preschool and elementary school children.
This summer, the Beaufort County library had more than 250 children between 2 and 3 years old participate in our summer reading programs. Children who are exposed to library preschool programs develop an increased number of emergent literacy behaviors and pre-reading skills.
And don't forget, public library reading programs play an important role in the reading achievement of children who lack access to books and other reading materials in their daily lives. The library, for these children, is essential to their future success.
Most of all, summer reading programs make educational reading activities fun and appealing to kids and teens. Wendy Allen, Youth Services coordinator for the Beaufort County Public Library system, is not surprised by the high participant rate this year.
"With the themes of 'Be Creative @ Your Library' for children and 'Express Yourself' for teens, this has been an exciting summer of exploring the creative arts. Children, teens and adults have had fun with art, music, dance and, of course, lots and lots of reading," Allen said. "Systemwide, our BCL Youth Service staff has outdone themselves in providing programs that are entertaining and informative for all ages. In a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, the free services of the Beaufort County Library system help bridge an important gap. This year, more than ever, people have been turning to the library and we are there to answer their need."
The 2001 LSTA report by Celano and Neuman said, "Children who participate in summer reading programs benefit from the many literacy-related activities offered, aiding significantly in literacy development. Public library preschool and summer reading programs encourage children to spend a significant amount of time with books. Literacy-related activities and events enrich reading experiences, encouraging children to read themselves, hear stories read aloud and write about what they'd read." And to reinforce learning, public library programs strongly encourage parents to become involved in their children's reading.
There's still time to enjoy some summer reading fun. Don't miss your chance to catch a special summer reading performance of the Egbe Kilimanjaro African-Caribbean Drumming and Dance program at 10 a.m. July 27 at the St. Helena library; 2 p.m. July 27 at the Lobeco library; 10 a.m. July 28 at the Bluffton library; and 2 p.m. July 28 at the Beaufort library.
For more family fun and summer reading excitement, go to www.beaufortcountylibrary.org  and be sure to "Express Yourself."