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Identity & Community

Calling All Superheroes: Summer Book Clubs Are Beginning

Grab your capes and grab your books: a superhero book club is headed your way.

As the school year winds down, many area libraries are about to begin their summer reading programs with the national theme of “Every Hero Has a Story.” They are planning their own superhero events to motivate kids to continue reading during their break to avoid what is known as the “summer slide.”

“It is absolutely borne out through research that over the summer, kids can really lose 2-3 months of learning over the summer, and so we really need to help, as a community, keep that from happening,” said Holly McCullough, Assistant Director for Programs and Partnerships at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is launching its summer reading program with its 15th annual Summer Reading Extravaganza at its main branch in Oakland Sunday, June 7. The event will include live performances, a book sale, arts and crafts, and the opportunity for kids to register.

According to McCullough, the focus this summer is a bit different than years past.

“For all ages this year we’re really focusing on what you want to learn over the summer. What are your goals? What would you like to read or learn about?” McCullough said.

For example, if a child wants to learn how to jump rope this summer, the library will help that child find books or other materials to help them do that. The program encourages kids to read a minimum of 5 books and offers rewards at different milestones along the way. The goal is to build an enjoyable program that keeps kids reading all summer and encourages them to learn something new.

“Summer should be a fun time, but it’s also a time that you need to be able to maintain the skills that you’ve learned during the school year and also have fun while you’re doing it, and that’s what we’re here to help people do,” McCullough said.

Many other libraries in the Pittsburgh area are preparing their book clubs as well. Northland Public Library in the North Hills and Mt. Lebanon Public Library have been visiting local schools to spread the word about their own reading programs, both beginning mid-June.

At Northland, they offer a summer reading program for everyone from toddlers to adults with weekly events throughout the summer, like their Engineering Super Heroes series, which are workshops that allow kids to explore superhero gadgets and create their own, or the Make Your Own Superhero Movie, where teens can use iPads to create short films.

Courtney Bonnet, children’s librarian at Northland, wants kids to get to know their local library though the summer program.

“I hope that they’ll come in and meet the librarians and all of our staff and just enjoy summer reading,” she said.

Mt. Lebanon Public Library has about 1,000 kids sign up for its book club every year, according to children’s librarian Holly Visnesky. This year, instead of having a required number of books, they have a required number of hours spent reading. If a child reads for eight hours during the summer, they have the opportunity to choose a new book for themselves. There are other small prizes along the way.

The biggest idea librarians want kids to take away from these programs is simple: reading is fun.

“It’s not like your parents send you to your room: ‘You have to read an hour,’ or ‘You can’t go out and play till you read an hour.’ This way, they want to do it,” said Visnesky. “They want to read, they want to get the prizes, they want to come in and do the programs, and it’s just fun.”