ELIZABETHTOWN — Studeies have shown the “summer learning gap” is more prevalent than ever, as many children spend their time away from school playing video games, sleeping or watching TV — often forgetting things they have learned at school and even fall behind in their reading and school work when it is time for the new school year.
The Bladen County Public Library is trying to put a stop to the so-called “gap” and keep the young minds in Bladen County sharp and educated, even throughout the summer with a summer reading program. Operated for the past few years, library officials hope to encourage the children to read over the summer and to get acquainted with libraries.
The program kicked off this summer on July 11 and will come to an end on Aug. 3 with one program at each Bladen County Public Library branch one time a week for a total of four weeks.
There are also morning programs for day cares at the different branches as well.
Between all the libraries there are nearly 100 kids participating, and the program leaders hope to continue the program for next summer and have even more kids.
“We want to encourage kids to come to the library and check out books,” explained LaShannon McDonald, one of the program directors who has been helping with the program now for two years.
One of the main goals for the summer reading program is to help get kids more comfortable with the library and to get them to participate in as many summer programs as possible.
Two student volunteers, Madison Singletary and Dylan Melvin, help each event by conducting crafts, games, and any other tasks needed throughout the program.
Singletary is a 2016 graduate of West Bladen High School and plans to attend Campbell University in the fall, and she has been volunteering for the summer reading program every summer since 2014.
“I originally started volunteering for service hours for Beta Club, but the first time I helped out I fell in love with the program and the kids and I knew I had to keep coming back each summer,” she said.
Melvin is a rising junior at East Bladen High School, and this is his second summer volunteering. He said that he really enjoyed helping the kids read and learn new things.
The program on Wednesday, July 20, at the Elizabethtown branch began with a meal provided through the Board of Education’s Summer Meals Program. Afterward, the program offered a presentation by Marianne Valentiner, a health educator with the Bladen County Health Department.
Valentiner started out by reading a book called Plants Feed Me and then gave a short presentation called “Healthy Snacks on the go” and explained many important nutritional facts beneficial to both the parents and kids.
After the presentation and story time, the youth got to make crafts, win prizes, and got the chance to check out library books. The program wrapped up after about 90 minutes of fun and learning, and ended with goody bags for each of the children to take home.
“This program means so much to me and the other program directors,” McDonald said. “It feels great to know that we are making a positive impact on the young minds of our future.”
There are two weeks left in the summer reading program, and it is not too late for youngsters to participate and get back in the swing of things before the new school year begins.
Check your local Bladen County Public Library Branch for dates and times or call the Elizabethtown Public Library at 910-862-6990 for information.
Madison McLamb can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.