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Article posted: 8/8/2013 5:25 PM

Log your minutes before the end of summer reading

By Tara García Mathewson

Community partnerships have fueled the incredible growth in summer reading through Elgin's Gail Borden Public Library over the last two years and library leaders believe those relationships will make sure the latest numbers aren't a fluke.

Last year, the library saw record-breaking enrollment with 20 percent more students registered than in 2011. The streak continued this year with 10 percent growth over the 2012 high.

"It's very hard for a campaign to have the same type of electricity as it had the year before but we've done it here," said Denise Raleigh, Gail Borden's public relations and development division chief. "We're so happy that all of our partners have come through like they have."

Almost two dozen organizations have signed on as "Gold Star Partners," bringing 2,400 students into the summer reading program and offering books and support to young readers along the way.

Total enrollment this year topped 9,300 kids.

Students at Learning Tree West in Elgin finished their reading goals Thursday, just two days ahead of the official program end. Library leaders are asking students to log their hours by Saturday, though they'll be accepting final tallies until Aug. 24, giving kids a couple extra weeks to qualify for the summer reading prizes.

While excitement is high over the number of students who signed up for summer reading, Raleigh said the focus should continue to be on finishing. Studies show the more students read over the summer the better off they'll be at the start of the school year. At this point only about one-third of students have finished the program.

To encourage positive modeling for the younger population, greater stress has been placed on adult reading this summer. The community reading challenge was announced in May at Elgin's first education summit, organized by Mayor David Kaptain.

The goal was to collectively read for 100,000 hours this summer and earn Elgin the reputation of a reading community. So far local readers have logged half that on the Gail Borden website.

As the program draws to a close, community leaders are calling for the stragglers to mark down their minutes and hours.

"We know people read during the summer," Raleigh said. "Just let us be able to announce that to the world -- that we are a reading community. Our most important audience when we make that announcement is our kids."

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