Library programs aim to stave off summer slide

By Samantha Lyles
Staff Writer

With so many school districts across the country forced to curtail the school year due to COVID-19, the extended “summer slide,” where children’s schoolwork fluency erodes due to lack of practice, could spell disaster when students eventually return to the classroom.
The Darlington County Library System aims to help families turn that slide into a launch ramp by firing up imaginations with a variety of summer engagement programs, all modified to meet the needs of our socially distanced society.
“We knew at the first of May that we wouldn’t be able to offer our traditional summer reading program, so we made the decision then to offer a virtual program,” says Jimmie Epling, Darlington County Library System director. “The youth services librarians did in about one month what they usually do in five months in planning the program.”
This summer’s program, entitled “Imagine Your Story,” focuses on fairy tales and fantasy, incorporating popular elements like unicorns, dragons, and pirates into various reading challenges and activities.
Any child who wishes to participate can visit the library’s website and download a game board where they help Darcy the Dragon’s friends wend their way across the kingdom to a book club party.
Each space forward requires 20 minutes spent reading (the reading material is up to the child), and those who complete the quest will be entered into special prize drawings. Prizes include gift certificates, farm tours and even an overnight stay at a carriage house.
Epling says the libraries are bringing out more live and interactive programming, too. Each Tuesday, the library posts a new virtual program on its Facebook page.
June programs included visits to the Tally Ho equestrian center, South Carolina Aquarium and Riverbanks Zoo. July will bring Dragon Tails and Pirate Sails, a visit with South Carolina Animal Ambassadors and a production exploring what happened to Goldilocks and Three Bears after the story ended, staged by Pork Chop Productions.
For those youngsters missing that comforting routine of story time at the library, the Darlington Library holds a live story time event on Facebook every Thursday at 10 a.m.
If you’re looking for some hands-on creativity, the Hartsville Library branch presents “Crafting with Audrey,” where kids across the county can construct a nifty project along with live instruction available through Facebook.
“Each of our library branches has a limited number of crafting kits, and while supplies last you can pick up the kit for that particular week,” Epling says, noting that the craft projects connect with the fantasy and fairy tale theme. “We’ve had Humpty Dumpty, fire-breathing dragons, Little Red Riding Hood, and next week’s project is a fairy wand. Upcoming craft projects include The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, and The Ugly Duckling.”
Readers can find plenty of free content through their local library. Those with current library cards can check out a wide array of digital media such as e-books, audiobooks, and magazines.
Even if you don’t have a library card, you can still gain access to these archives by visiting the library website and applying for a new temporary e-card. Newly available e-resources include the Duke Classics library – a collection of 200 classic novels likely to include most school reading assignments.
While reading the literary canon is certainly grand, Epling notes that almost any type of regular reading can help stave off learning loss.
“It doesn’t matter what they read, just that they’re reading something. It could be comics like Batman or Spider-Man or Captain America, or it could be manga or graphic novels,” he says. “Whatever they enjoy reading, as long as they are reading, it’s going to help keep their comprehension and retention sharp.”
To sign up for an e-card or learn more about any Darlington County Library System programs, visit or check out their Facebook page.

Author: Stephan Drew

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