(Monica Herndon, Patuxent Publishing / July 22, 2013)

Students chattered noisily as they gathered in groups around tables in the Riverview Elementary School library on a recent Tuesday morning, sharing and discussing the books they had just checked out.

Some were reading about sharks, others about princesses and still others about the human skeletal system.

The topic was less important than the fact that each of the more than 25 students present were reading.

"It's wonderful to see the children so excited and engaged in literary conversation during the summer months," said Riverview Principal Mary Maddox.

The students are part of the summer school program at Riverview and, as part of a countywide program, were able to access their school library during the summer months.

Only 13 of Baltimore County's 107 elementary schools offered summer library hours in an effort to make reading material available throughout the summer, when children might be less inclined to read.

"The public library is not within walking distance for our children," Maddox said. "This is accessible to them."

Maddox said there are about 65 students enrolled in the summer school program, all of whom had access to the library every Tuesday in July.

There are about 10 students enrolled in the school's summer science camp for rising fifth-graders who also have been utilizing the library for the past four weeks, she said.

"They have access to the library for research if they need it," she said.

Some, however, just want books to enjoy in the final month before school starts.

Paige Carder, 7, a rising second-grader at Riverview, was able to check out three books to take home after she finished up summer school on July 23.

"I got a Jonas Brothers book, a 'Tangled' book and a princess book," she said.

That was her second trip to the library this summer, and she pointed out that she had already read three other books.

Princess books are her favorite, she said, and she was glad to have access to them at the library.

"I like it," Paige said. "So we can get books and read them at home."

Residents from surrounding neighborhoods took advantage of the hours as well.

"We do have people from the neighborhood who come and check out books," Maddox said.

At Riverview, the summer library hours were made available through Title I funds that allow library media specialist MaryBeth Brennan to spend each Tuesday in the library from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

"We've offered a summer program at the library for, gosh, at least five years now," Brennan said. "We want the kids to have an opportunity to get their hands on books."

She said each student is allowed to check out three books a week, and students who checked out books on the last day of the program — July 30 — will be allowed to hold on to them until the school year starts at the end of August.

Though they promote the Dig Into Reading Summer Reading Club program of the Baltimore County Public Library, it is important for the school library to remain open for a number of reasons, Brennan said.

"I think it's partly convenience," she said. "Some of them can't get to the public library very easily.

"It's more comfortable. They know me; they know the teachers," Brennan said. "We wanted to keep it consistent."

She said seeing excited kids sharing and discussing their recently checked out books, like the one on July 23, was common throughout the month.

"I think it's fun, because it's a break from their summer school routine, where they get to choose the materials they want," she said. "They just naturally sit where they sit and talk about what they're reading."