We have done everything but read it for you!

By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System

In my day, when the school year ended, you were free, yes…totally free of school until late August. You could run wild, at least as much as you dared or your parent’s allowed, enjoying that freedom of no school or homework. All that changed many years ago, and as I think about it, it has been for the good. Children improve their reading skills if they continue to read during the summer. The skills of those who do not read during the summer often decline, known by teachers as the “summer slide,” losing as much as two months of achievement. “Children who read succeed” is more than just a catchy slogan used to encourage adults to inspire their child to read, it is a fact. This why our schools now give a summer reading assignment and the Library sponsors an annual summer reading program. Once again, the school year has ended with “the” final assignment, read something from “the list” or the “Accelerated Reader” list before the new school year begins. This summer, when your child is ready to take on that summer reading assignment, hopefully without too much prodding from you, know that the Darlington County Library System has done everything possible to make the task easier except read it for you.

For many of you, this summer ritual is all too familiar. The summer reading list comes home with your young scholar and is laid aside with an, “I’ll get it done later.” As the weeks pass by, you ask, “Have you started reading your book?” I can still hear my son say with a groan, “No, I still have plenty of time Dad.” The weeks slip by with the same response to your question. You begin to have a sense of foreboding (for some of you it is déjà vu) that it is all going to end in a mad scramble to get a book from “the list” and the “agony” of late nights to get it read in time. While the Library cannot do anything about the late night “agony”, we can help ease that scramble to find a book from your school’s list.

Children and parents need not fret about finding something on “the list” or “the AR list.” This year we are prepared for those on a quest for a book from their assigned summer reading list. The Library’s staff has been hard at work prying summer reading lists from the schools. We have the lists for Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Mayo high schools. With these lists in hand, we have determined what books we have on the shelves and those we need to get. We now have copies of the four from Darlington High’s college prep list, the four school wide choices and honors class books for Hartsville High, and Mayo High’s college prep and honors lists. Lamar High’s list this year is the South Carolina Book Award nominees for young adult books. We not only have copies of all of them in print, we also have many of them in an e-book version for those who want to read it on a tablet or smartphone! Our goal is that no student will leave the Library without a book from their list in hand. A warning thought to those who wait until the last week to visit the Library to find a book on their list, you may be disappointed. Even though we have as many as 40 to 50 copies of some of the books, all the copies of the one you want may be checked out. Don’t worry if you forget your list at home, each branch will have the summer reading list from its local schools. You can also see the school reading lists we have and the entire list of the 2015 South Carolina Children’s and Young Adult Book Award nominees on our website at www.darlington-lib.org.

This year the Darlington County School’s AR program this year is tied into our “Every Hero Has a Story” summer reading program. For the first time, students have the opportunity to take their Accelerated Reader (AR) tests at any of our four locations, Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill. The AR program is a computerized program that tests reading comprehension. Students can select from over 130,000 titles for a book on their reading level, read it independently, and then take an independent comprehension test or quiz through a computer linked to the Internet. Each book is worth a certain number of points based on its length and reading level. The program tracks their progress. The school system is requiring those in Kindergarten K – 2nd grade read books worth a total of 3 AR points, those in grades 3rd through 5th to accumulate 6 AR points, and those students in grades 6th through 8th to accumulate 9 AR points. Students reaching their goals will qualify for prizes. Those with the most AR points at each grade will receive the Darlington Race Track Extravaganza, which includes a ride around the track and a tour of the garage and pits.

The staff of the Library has worked to collect books with AR quizzes. We have made it easy to find AR books by going to our website at www.darlington-lib.org. Parents and students will find a link to the “AR BookFinder” site where you can search for books based on authors, topics, or titles. Also, there is a link to the instructions for students who want to take their Accelerated Reader tests at the Library. Each location of the Library will have two to three computers set aside for students to access the AR quiz site with login information provided by the schools.

The ability of the Library to bring so much help to the students and parents of Darlington County with their summer reading assignment was made possible by the Sonoco Foundation and the Darlington County Schools.

The Sonoco Foundation this spring gave the Library, through the Friends of the Hartsville Memorial Library, a generous grant of $5,000 to help purchase books from the individual school lists and the AR list through a program we call “Read to Success.” The purpose of the “Read to Success” program is to:

  • Provide an adequate number of books at any given time for a student to find at least one title from his/her reading list.
  • Students unable to obtain a copy of a required book from the school or to purchase a copy will be able to borrow one from the Library.
  • Encourage students to participate in the Library’s annual summer reading program as the books they read will also count for the Library’s program and its rewards.
  • Reduce or prevent the “summer slide” in student reading abilities.
  • Retain all the books obtained for the project to reuse in the future for this annual required assignment.

The Darlington County Schools, through the work of ELA & Social Studies Coordinator Matthew Ferguson, was able to arrange for our four locations to become AR testing sites in addition to the schools. Children will now be able to take their AR tests during their local Library’s hours.

This summer, when your child is ready to take on that summer reading assignment, hopefully without too much prodding from you, know that the Darlington County Library System has done everything possible, except read the book for you, to make completing it easier.

Author: Jana Pye

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