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#PGHReads sharpens kids’ skills through the summer

summer reading
Abby Proch
July07/ 2016

Catching lightning bugs at dark. Swimming all day long. Curling up with a good book.

Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore their surroundings and spark their imaginations. And what better way to do just that — and retain those school-year reading skills — than with a citywide summer reading challenge.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is challenging city residents, including children, to read 90,000 books through Aug. 31.

The challenge began June 5, and already Pittsburghers have turned the final page on more than 28,000 books, says Carnegie Library Manager of Communications Suzanne Thinnes.

“Pittsburgh is one of the most literate cities [in the country]. We are consistently ranked in the top and this is a way to celebrate that,” says Thinnes.

From bedtime stories and teen fiction to hand-me-down hardbacks and top-selling eBooks, the challenge encompasses nearly all reading material and welcomes readers of all ages, especially children.

While summertime can mean free-range fun and family vacations, for some kids, there’s not a lot of focus on reading. Children and teens who don’t read over the summer could start the new school year with fewer skills than the previous year, known as summer slide, says Thinnes.

“Summer reading is such an important part of library services and our commitment to education and literacy,” says Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of Carnegie Library. “It helps children and teens develop life-long reading habits and enables parents to take an active role in the fun and learning that reading provides.”

Reading to babies and young children is a great way to enhance vocabulary; encouraging school-age kids to read can help stave off the summer slide.

Getting some kids to read can be a challenge in itself, so Carnegie librarians suggest letting them pick their own books.

“It’s not school. We always say it’s about reading what you want,” says Thinnes. Reading can be a time to explore, to travel, to find anything and everything, she says.

Need a little more inspiration to get your kids to read? Try showing them an adult who reads.

The Library is following the lead of the American Library Association’s Celebrity READ® campaign and featuring local influencers like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, fashion designer and owner of Uptown Sweats Kiya Tomlin, rapper Jasiri X and Chancelor Humphrey of Instagram lifestyle account KeepPittsburghDope.

Thinnes says the library chose collaborators to serve as reading role models for kids.

“We want to show the range of occupations that Pittsburgh provides, the range of people and the diversity so that the kids who are reading will say that person’s cool,” says Thinnes.

If your kids balk at the thought of trading sunshine and screen time for a book, let them know that eBooks and audiobooks are encouraged. And, the challenge has a social media element.

Kids can share their latest read and keep up with their best friends’ favorites with #PGHReads on social media.

Readers can also track their reading list, get email reminders and find recommendations by signing up on the Library’s website.

Individual branch locations will also age-appropriate raffle prizes, from free books and gift cards to an Amazon Kindle, says Thinnes.

Visit your local Carnegie Library location to join the challenge or learn about other Summer Reading Program events.

Abby Proch