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Summer must-read for kids? Any book at all!

Has your child cracked a book since school let out?

Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school gets out. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year.

New research offers a surprisingly simple and affordable solution to the summer reading slide. In a three-year study, researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville found that simply giving low-income children access to books — and allowing them to choose books that interested them — had a significant effect on the summer reading gap.

Children who chose reading books and those who picked free activity and puzzle books were tracked for three years. Those who had access to free reading books posted significantly higher test scores than the children who received activity books. The effect — 1/16th of a standard deviation in test scores — was equivalent to a child attending three years of summer school. The difference in scores was twice as high among the poorest children in the study.

One of the notable findings of the study was that children improved their reading scores even though they typically weren’t selecting the curriculum books or classics that teachers normally assign for summer reading. That conclusion confirms other studies suggesting that children learn best when they are allowed to select their own books.

By the way, the most popular book during the first year of the study was a biography of Britney Spears. As one observer said, “Whatever it takes — even poring over details of Britney Spears’ life — to foster reading something longer than a 140-character Tweet has to be laudable.”

Summer Reading Program

This year’s Summer Reading Program is underway, with a multitude of activities between now and the closing all-ages party on Friday evening, July 15. Summer reading activities are open to toddlers, kids, teens and adults spending all or part of their summer in Archuleta County. Programs for babies and toddlers run on Mondays. Programs for kids run on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Programs for teens and adults are scheduled at various times. The movie programs for all ages run on Fridays. Detailed schedules are available at the library. Amazing prizes will be awarded to all age groups.

You do not need to be a registered Summer Reading Program participant to attend these events. But registering provides all sorts of bonuses, including your own personal reading record sheet and raffle tickets for special prizes.

Tattoos for teens

Teens are invited to enjoy a free special crafts program that is part of the Summer Reading Program and earn one raffle ticket next Friday, June 24. Watch the Bollywood film “Bride and Prejudice” set in India at noon and then stay to learn about mendhi art (henna tattoos). Teens who have signed permission slips will be able to have a henna tattoo applied to their body. The tattoos last a week or two and then fade away.

Native and medicinal plants

Lake and Carolyn McCullough from Earthsense Herbals in Pagosa Springs are offering a free one-hour program on growing, finding and using native and medicinal plants this afternoon (Thursday, June 16) from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. No registration required. Summer readers will earn one ticket for attending.


“I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River” by Henry Winkler is a collection of humorous anecdotes and heartfelt observations about his fly-fishing experiences, written by the actor best known as Fonzie on “Happy Days.” “Shania Twain: From This Moment On” is the autobiography of this musical legend, who offers her insights into families, personal tragedies, making sense of one’s life and the process of healing. “All That Is Bitter and Sweet” by Ashley Judd tells of the actress’ odyssey as a left-behind lost child attains international prominence as a dedicated advocate.

New novels

“Embassytown” by China Mieville is an adventure of alien contact and war in the far future. “The Final Storm” by Jeff Shaara is a novel about the war in the Pacific, part of his epic series chronicling World War II. “October Fest” by Jess Lourey centers around two murders at a small town fall festival. “The Company Man” by Robert Jackson Bennett is a combination thriller, horror story and American Gothic. “The Ridge” by Michael Koryta is a thriller based on the premise of a man in love with the woman who shot him.

Thanks to our donors

For DVDs donated to the library this week, we thank Scottie Gibson.


For more information on library books, services and programs — and to reserve books from the comfort of your home — visit our website at

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