Many Baltimore County elementary school pupils will be taking home more than their broken crayons and completed assignments on the last day of classes Friday. They'll also be carrying bags filled with books from their school libraries.
Seeking to encourage reading over the summer, Baltimore County educators are urging children in kindergarten through fourth grade to borrow the books -- a new effort that highlights the district's increased emphasis on early reading skills.
"Instead of books being locked in school, why not have them in the hands of children?" said Jonna Hundley, coordinator of elementary language arts. "On the last day of school, you'll see libraries filled with children checking out books."
This week, 44,000 white plastic bags -- printed with a picture of the county public library's summer reading club mascot, "Sneaks" the cat, and the slogan "Vacation with school library books" -- will be handed out in the county's 100 elementary schools.
Children will be encouraged to take home borrowed school library books in the bags -- and to return the books in those bags when classes resume in the fall.
"We know that there are homes that don't have very many books, and we know there are communities that aren't very close to public libraries," said Della Curtis, coordinator of the school system's office of library information services. "We should have every kid reading during the summer, and this will help do that."
The effort is part of the county's continuing "Families that Read Together" campaign, which this spring used incentives to encourage children to sign up for public library cards.
The school system also has developed countywide lists of books to guide parents in selecting summer reading material.
County educators are aware that permitting children to take out library books for 10 weeks may result in a few lost books. But they expect most parents and children will be careful.
"We trust they will be back," said Roberta Bukovsky, director of elementary education. "Parents are going to make sure their children take care of the books."
The public libraries are aware of the program, Curtis said, and they are prepared to receive school library books that are returned to the wrong place.
For families that move over the summer, Curtis said that library books can be returned to elementary school offices -- which remain open year-round -- or to the public libraries.
"When I started out as a school librarian at a junior high school, I would do this type of program, and I never lost one book," Curtis said. "Even if we lose a few, that's a price I don't mind paying if we get more children reading over the summer."
Pub Date: 5/31/98