What do Pet Rocks, reading to dogs, and Skippyjon Jones all have in common? They are all part of Temecula Library’s summer reading program, “Paws to Read.”
The annual program kicked off in early June and is just one way to encourage kids to grab book and continue their reading adventure even though school is out for the year.
“Studies have shown that children who are reading over the summer retain the reading skills that they gained during the previous school year whereas children who don’t regress a bit and have to catch up at the beginning of the school year,” said youth services manager Ginger Safstrom. “It’s a very positive thing.”
To participate, children sign up with the children’s librarian and are required to read at least one book each week. To make things more interesting for the participants, there are a variety of programs including performances by professional programmers.
Kids earn a prize each week by visiting the library and reading at least one book. Children who aren’t reading yet can be read to by a parent or an older sibling.
This year, Tad Hills is the featured illustrator and Rocket, a fictional dog who is featured in the books “How Rocket Learned to Read” and “Rocket Writes a Story”, is the mascot for the program.
Safstrom said library organizers try to make the program as fun as possible because they want reading to feel like a part of a child’s vacation instead of an extension of the school year. They try to lighten the mood with contests, and one of those contests is titled, ‘Where is Skippyjon Jones?”
As part of the contest children have to locate the titular character – a Siamese Cat with large ears – somewhere in the library. When they do find him, they can enter the contest to win a prize of some sort. However, that’s only one way that children can win a prize.
A “Tally the Treats” contest where children guess the number of treats in Rocket’s treat jar, a “Pawparrazi Photo Contest” where children enter a photo of their pet and receive prizes based on different categories, and a Pet Rock contest are all ongoing during the program. Students can also enter for a special prize in a drawing when they read five or more books during contest time, according to Safstrom.
“We also have a Critter Parade Pajama Storytime where youth staff members are telling stories on animal related things,” Safstrom said. “We have about 45 youth volunteers who man the station where children register and they come weekly to get the prize for that week and spin the prize wheel.”
Year round the library offers a program allowing kids to read to therapy dogs provided by local Temecula Valley Chapter of “Paws 4 Healing.”
“Children make an appointment ahead of time and the parent fills out a permission slip, they come in and read to the dog for about 15 minutes,” said Safstrom. “They get to spend time with the dog and they get a sticker and a bookmark. Some of the dogs do tricks. It helps them to build confidence in a positive, nonjudgmental setting so they can improve those skills.”
Children aren’t the only ones getting in on the fun during the program; youth and adults can also take part in various activities, too.
Teen Services Librarian Dan Wood said that the library tries to make things a little more interesting for the teens so rather than “Paws to Read,” this year’s theme is a little more appropriate to what teens are interested in.
“The reading theme for this year is “Creature Feature,” he said.
“(The focus will be) old school movie monsters like Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, that sort of thing,” Wood said. “We thought that would be a little more fun for them