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What should your kids do this summer? Read!

By Ann Clark and Lee Keesler
Special to the Observer

When libraries and schools work together, everybody wins. Imagine a community where kids and teens get the literacy and educational support they need for success in education and in life. Imagine they have access to the resources they need in school and after school, during the school year and over the summer. It can happen, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library are already working together to prepare our community’s next generation of learners and leaders.

Today is the first day of registration for the Library’s annual Summer Reading program at www.cmlibrary.org/summerread. This is Mecklenburg County’s biggest annual literacy initiative, touching tens of thousands of people. It’s a great example of how a little innovation can go a long way in bringing together two organizations with a stake in helping students succeed.

So how are our two organizations working together better than ever? Last year, the Library made some major changes to its Summer Reading program to enable more collaboration and cooperation with CMS. For example, the Library offered pre-registration starting in May, allowing CMS to promote Summer Reading in the classroom. Teachers and Library staff across the county worked to get kids signed up before the end of the school year. The Library also moved the program online, allowing more tracking and the ability to send reminders to participants. End-of-summer results showed a total of 22,167 individuals registered, a 26 percent increase from the previous year, which translated into 13.8 million minutes read across all age levels.

More importantly, school-age children, teens and adults who read did so for an average of 20 minutes per day. National studies indicate that a child who reads 20 minutes per day year-round will gain the vocabulary and comprehension skills to be ranked in the 90th percentile for student achievement. Students who participated in Summer Reading returned to school in the fall more prepared to learn and had the opportunity to be recognized for their commitment.

According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life study, 85 percent of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should definitely coordinate more closely with local schools. In a strong community, the public library functions as an extension of the classroom and the school year through the many services it provides. The public library also plays an important role in helping to prepare pre-school children to read and learn in kindergarten. As the Library and CMS work to find more ways to collaborate and help our students, we invite you to join us. It starts with something as simple as signing up: www.cmlibrary.org/summerread.

Ann Clark is the deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Lee Keesler is the CEO of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
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