Summer reading programs long have been a staple of public library programming across the country. It's no different here. The Public Library - the shorter, catchier name now used to identify the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library - has offered such programs for years. Once limited to young readers, the summer event has grown to include teen and adult readers, as well. The programs have proved to be immensely popular - and deservedly so.
Last year, more than 5,000 children enrolled in the summer program. They read a total of almost 160,000 books. In addition, almost a thousand teens and adults participated in the summer program. More than 1,100 people attended the program's Grand Finale party. Those numbers are testament to the community's enthusiastic embrace of the programs.
Registration for the library's 2011 summer programs is under way, and the number of participants is expected to increase. There's no reason it should not. The family friendly programs are free and can be pursued by participants without time constraints. More importantly, they encourage individuals to engage in recreational reading, a practice that maintains and hones skills, especially among younger participants, that otherwise might erode during summer's break from school.
"One World, Many Stories" is the name of the program for kids from birth through fifth grade. Those who register - at any of the library's sites - will be given a logbook to record their reading. Completion of the program requires youngster to read a minimum of 10 books, or if they're not old enough to read, to listen to them. Special programs tied to the yearly theme are offered at the library, too. This year's Grand Finale is scheduled July 30 at the First Tennessee Pavilion for youngsters who complete the program.
The formats of the teen and adult programs - "You Are Here" and "Novel Destinations," respectively - are similar. Each requires registration, and a logbook, offers a variety of programs and concludes with a wrap party. Information about all programs is available by calling the library or on its website.
The library's summer programs are much more than a public service. They are a valuable and long-standing component of the community's civic and educational life. As such, they deserve widespread support.