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posted: 6/28/2010 12:01 AM

Library offers help for keeping reading skills sharp all summer

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Every day, 500 to 600 people walk into the Lisle Library. Even more people use its website that averages 25,500 hits a month.

With the summer reading program "Catch the Reading Wave" in full swing, patrons of all ages may join at any time. There is a beach party planned for its ending at 2 p.m. July 30. As an incentive, all who attend will receive admission to Sea Lion Aquatic Park for $1.

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For the youngest library patrons, the Lisle library has 45,000 books in its Youth Department. During the school year, roughly 600 kids and teens attend free library programs each month; during the summer the number jumps to 1,500, said Youth Services Director Lindsey Dorfman.

Research supports how import it is for children to read during the summer.

Teachers know the value of summer reading. They use the term "summer slide" to describe the loss of academic ground over the summer break. Reading can change that loss to a gain if children read.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that reading five books over the summer vacation prevents learning loss. Michelle Obama recently rolled out a nationwide summer program that encourages reading and exercise called "Let's Read: Let's Move."

In one study with data collected on more than 70,000 cases in 27 nations, Mariah Evans, associate professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, found that children who grow up in homes that are well-stocked with books, on average complete three more years of education than those children without books, regardless of their parents' social class, education level or occupation. Details are at schoollibraryjournal.com.

Another study shows that a child's early experience with books lays the foundation for successful reading. Experts know that children develop a lot of their capacity to learn from birth to age 3 when the brain's growth is rapid. Find details at multcolib.org/birthtosix/braindev.html.

Access to books and library programs over the summer improves reading skills when children return to school in the fall. Students who read more read better, but they also write, spell, have larger vocabularies and better control complex grammar, reported University of Southern California Professor Emeritus Stephen Krashen in a 2009 study.

The Lisle Library's "Catch the Reading Wave" can help children sail into September without a backward slide. By Friday morning, 860 children, 253 teens and 267 adults are signed up for the summer reading program and a total of 3,900 books have been read to date. Registration is ongoing.

For adults, the library is an oasis of lifelong learning all year long. The Lisle Library buys approximately 3,000 items a month including books, audio books, videos and games, said library public relations and adult programmer Rhonda Snelson.

Fiction is up in popularity, reflecting a laid-back summer reading pattern or a sign of the times. At the library, patrons read books, peruse newspapers, delve into research, use computers, scan magazines, search for a job, learn to speak English, study in a class and check out music, video and books.

As individual libraries and library systems in Illinois cut back operating hours, impose new fees or eliminate services, Lisle Library is holding its own.

The Lisle Library began as a tax-supported library district by referendum in 1965. Today that feature serves patrons well because the library is not a division of any municipal government. The district is a separate taxing body handling its own revenue.

"The library does get some state money, but we use it for 'extras' and not for day-to-day operations," Snelson said. She added that the library looks carefully at its budget and plans no noticeable cutbacks at this time.

However, one area beyond the control of the Lisle Library might experience service cuts.

The Metropolitan Library System, representing 464 public and school libraries, on its website announced plans to suspend services effective Wednesday, June 30. Because of delays in receiving state monies due them, library systems in Illinois plan to taper services accordingly.

Like other library systems in the state, the Metropolitan Library System helps member libraries share resources, negotiate online subscription prices, manage an online catalog system and offer professional development for library staff. The Metropolitan Library System serves libraries from Lisle and Benedictine University east to the Indiana border and from the Loyola University in Chicago south to Crete.

The primary benefit to Lisle Library is interlibrary loans.

The Lisle Library borrows more than 5,000 books a year to fill Lisle patron requests at no charge because of MLS arrangements. The regional service is fast, efficient and a wise use of shared resources. Exact changes are to be determined at the time this column is written; for updated information check the system's website, mls.lib.il.us/.

A free public library links a community to literature, the arts, job skills and new experiences. Snelson encourages residents to pay attention to what the library offers and make suggestions.

"The most important thing about the Lisle Library is that residents pay for it and deserve some return on their tax dollar," Snelson said. "I always tell patrons that it's the library's job to have what they want, so residents should tell us what they want."

On July 7, the library's board of directors plans to fill two empty trustee positions on its seven-member board. Two more residents will have a front-row seat to help the library reach out into the community it serves.

• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. E-mail her at jgbroz@yahoo.com.

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