By Brian Conlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
2:36 PM EDT, June 5, 2012
Last year's Summer Reading Club at libraries across Baltimore County was a real page turner and the Lansdowne and Arbutus libraries are hoping that momentum continues June 11.
Nearly 46,000 readers in Baltimore County took part in the club last year, a 30 percent increase over the year before, said Gail Ross, director of the Lansdowne and Arbutus libraries.
Last year, Lansdowne Library had 884 participants, more than double the number of readers the club had in 2010.
Opened in August 2010, Arbutus Library participated in the program for the first time last year and drew 1,946 participants.
"They choose what they want to read and how much they want to read," Ross said. "That's the beauty of the summer reading program."
This year's program starts earlier than originally scheduled because county schools closed early.
The school year for Baltimore County public school students will end on June 8, four days earlier than originally scheduled. The 2011-2012 school year had been scheduled to end June 14, but the mild winter did not require the use of the emergency closing time the school system had built into its calendar.
Ross said students who read when school is out are less likely to suffer the "summer slide," the regression students experience when they return to school in the fall after not working during the summer to maintain the reading skills they developed during the school year..
"Kids who read go back ready to learn, ready to score higher on their tests and ready to achieve more," Ross said.
In addition to staying sharp, attracting readers is an incentive program where participants can earn prizes for accomplishing reading goals.
Preschool and elementary-school aged readers in "Dream Big, Read" program receive a sticker for reading four books. Once they receive four stickers, the reader receives a prize.
Middle and high school students in the "Own the Night," program are entered in a countywide raffle for every three books they read.
This year's prizes include an iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle, Kindle Fire and gift cards.
"Who knows what you might win if you're a teenager?" Ross said. "We're going to have kids reading all summer."
Even youngsters who can't read yet can take part. Those 5 years old and younger may participate in the Read-to-Me Summer Reading Club. When they complete certain tasks, such as reading with an adult or turning pages, they get a sticker. After four stickers, they too get a prize.
The reading club program concludes at each county library on August 11 or 12, depending on whether the branch is open Sundays.