Update: Peace Pizzazz, previously scheduled for Bronson Park, will be held at Winchell Elementary due to expected rain. Efforts to keep kids reading over the long summer break are gearing up in Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo Public Library's annual Summer Reading Challenge offers kids tangible incentives to keep reading - free books. Library Executive Director Ryan Wieber says they earn them by reading at least 20 minutes each day over the summer.
"It's just a fun way to keep up our reading skills over the summertime. We know that if kids, once they're done with school, that two-and-a-half months in between grade levels, they often experience what's known as the 'summer slide.'"
Wieber says the fun does require some effort and commitment, though.
"Kids have to read at least 20 minutes a day for 15 days before they earn their first prize, which is a book. Then there are subsequent prizes too, based on additional days read. So, at 30 days, at 45 days, they earn additional rewards, which again are books. And who doesn't want a free book to take home and show off?"
The Kalamazoo Public Schools will lend a hand by giving away free books to the first thousand kids who sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge on Saturday, May 19, during Peace Pizzazz at Winchell Elementary. Superintendent Michael Rice says the district will also send about 32,000 free books to third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders over the summer. Rice says that has a big effect on preventing the "summer slide"
"It doesn't like that big a deal to have a four-month effect on reading levels, but that's for one summer. So, if you think about that (and) you do that three summers in a row, you've preserved a year's worth of reading."
Rice says improving childhood literacy requires work by the whole community. "What they read, particularly during the summer, is their business. That they read is our business; it's critical. And we need parents to hop aboard this literacy train."
This fall, KPS and the library will launch the new OneCard program. It will give Kalamazoo Public Library cards to all students, with their parent's permission. It's modeled on a similar program begun by the Battle Creek Public Schools and Willard Public Library in 2017.