Tomorrow's grand finale for young readers in the Public Library's summer reading program, along with similar events for teens and for adult readers planned next month, are potent reminders of the value and power of books and the printed word. They are reminders, too, of the vital role that libraries play in the educational and civic life of the community.
Summer reading programs have been part of the library here for years. They have been well-received. Indeed, many parents and some grandparents who registered children in the program this year participated in similar events at the library when they were young. The number of kids in the program and the number of books read this summer are an apt measuring-stick for the program's success.
More than 5,100 children aged 12 and under participated in the program. They read (or an adult read to them) more than 160,000 books. The exact total is uncertain; library officials were still checking logbooks and adding to what officials believe is a record total as this was written. Whatever the final tally, the fact that so many people read so many books is an achievement that merits a public celebration.
There will be one at the First Tennessee Pavilion on the Southside from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday. If similar past events are a guide, it will be a grand party. Children who successfully met program goals will get a certificate of achievement, coupons and variety of gifts and prizes. There will be refreshments, too. All the summer programs are sponsored by the library, the Friends of the Library and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
The summer reading programs, of course, are not limited to 12 and under. Similar programs were offered this year for teens and for adults. Each won a substantial following, and praise from participants. Celebratory events will mark the end of those programs, too.
A wrap party for teens is planned on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at the downtown library auditorium. The adult program concludes with a party from 2-5 p.m. at the downtown library auditorium on Aug. 13.
The programs encourage people of all ages to engage in reading just for fun, but there's more to it than that. Most participants hone critical skills during the summer. They also gain an appreciation of books and become familiar with the library. Moreover, the program can help create a life-long habit of reading for pleasure. Those are skills and habits that should be encouraged and promoted -- by the library, of course, and also by the community at large.