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Summer reading kicks off

State’s annual library promotion initiative kicks off in Bethlehem

The New York State library system kicks off its summer reading initiative with a Capital District press conference featuring Bethlehem town and school officials at the Bethlehem Public Library on Thursday, May 10.

The New York State library system kicks off its summer reading initiative with a Capital District press conference featuring Bethlehem town and school officials at the Bethlehem Public Library on Thursday, May 10. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— Bethlehem Public Library Director Geoff Kirkpatrick said it has been a challenge in recent years to get teens to come to the library. According to circulation rates from last year, teen books had the second lowest loan rate, just barely beating out magazine loans.

Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson joked that although today’s youths are more likely to be reading their favorite novel on a Kindle or iPad rather than an actual book, “the fundamental activity is the understanding of language, the crafting of thoughts, and the understanding of thoughts from others.”

Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Tom Douglas agreed, adding how most standardized tests now rely on strong reading comprehension skills.

“The old phrase ‘reading is fundamental’ still holds true,” he said.

To attract teens back to the library, Kirkpatrick said libraries are now asking for teen volunteers to help tutor or read to younger children during the summer months. The Bethlehem library is also providing teens with advance copies of book that haven’t been published yet to take home, if they are willing to write a review to be placed on the library’s website. So far, 160 local teens have signed up to participate in the summer program at the Bethlehem library.

Timothy Burke, Upper Hudson Library System executive director, said the majority of this year’s summer programs for children will focus on lessons about outer space. He also said the “Own the Night” theme for teens will focus on empowerment.

“I would like to thank (Breslin and McLaughlin) for thinking libraries are a smart investment of taxpayer money,” he said.

The event closed with a brief memorial for children’s author Maurice Sendak, who died on Tuesday, May 8. The 83-year-old was famous for his artwork and stories in books like “Where the Wild Things Are” and “In the Night Kitchen.”

“I know his character and books touched my life,” said Kirkpatrick, adding that Sendak will live on through his work.

A short student video was also shown that promoted the summer program’s “Own the Night” theme.

To learn more, visit www.summerreadingnys.org or visit your local library.

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