Summer reading programs at Apache Junction, Queen Creek libraries

Tim and Emma Lanning reading at the Queen Creek Branch Library. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The best way to keep children on track when they go back to school in the fall is to have them read throughout the summer, librarians and parents say.

Local libraries in Apache Junction and Queen Creek have summer reading programs for children and are open across county and municipal borders.

Apache Junction

The Apache Junction Public Library, 1177 N. Idaho Road, has its own summer reading program separate from the Pinal County Library District. Visit ajpl.org/summer-reading-the-library.

Registration began May 29 and continues through July 14 for the program open to all ages.

Kids and teens are required to read 1,000 minutes this summer to earn the final prize – a free book at the Scholastic Book Fair the week of July 16-21. All minutes must be logged online by July 14 to earn the free book.

Every week children up to age 17 will receive a prize when they visit the library.

Adults can pick up a reading log at the library’s service desk and turn the log back in to the library to be entered into a prize drawing.

“It’s important because we want to avoid the summer reading slide,” Pam Harrison, supervisory librarian in youth services at the Apache Junction Public Library, said of the summer reading program.

“It means that when kids are on break for an extended period of time from school that they actually can go backward on their learning. They can lose up to a grade or more of reading skills because they are not practicing. So this keeps them practicing over the summer and thereby increasing their reading skills so they are ready for the next grade level,” she said.

Apache Junction Public Library has its own program, separate from other Pinal County libraries, she said.

“Every branch in Pinal County has its own. Everybody does a program, but not everybody does it the same way, which is unique,” Ms. Harrison said.

The 1,000 minutes suggested in the summer reading program equates to about 20 to 30 minutes a day, she said.

“It’s pretty standard across the nation for 1,000 minutes to be a good goal,” Ms. Harrison said.

The Apache Junction Public Library is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and closed Sunday, according to ajpl.org.

Kay Cleveland, a three-year resident of Apache Junction, recently visited the local library with her grandson, 4, who may register for the summer reading program for the first time this year.

“He hasn’t yet, but we’re going to,” she said.

She likes that the Apache Junction Public Library has a summer reading program.

“I used to be a preschool teacher – I am a retired preschool teacher – and I think the summer programs are good for the children, especially before they start school, because they are like little sponges at this age, you know?” she said.

“I read to him daily. He goes and he picks books out and he brings them to me,” Ms. Cleveland said.

Karen Rhoads, who has children who are ages 17 and 21, likes that the Apache Junction Public Library has a summer reading program.
The Mesa resident was at the library in May and said she planned to move to Jacobs Ranch in Apache Junction in June.

“I think reading in general is important for kids. When they are not in school for that length of time they … are so easily distracted by the TV and stuff like that and reading is a skill,” she said.

“The more you read, the better you get at it. And if you take three months off, you have a lot of catching up to do when you get back to school,” Mrs. Rhoads said.

Pinal County libraries

The Pinal County Library District has libraries in the communities of Apache Junction, Arizona City, Casa Grande/Vista Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Florence, Kearny, Mammoth, Maricopa, Oracle, San Manuel and Superior, Pinal County Librarian Denise Keller said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“All the public libraries in Pinal are offering programs this year, using the theme of ‘Libraries Rock,’” she said.

“Summer reading programs are intended to encourage children to keep reading during the summer,” she said.

“Children are at-risk of losing some of skills gained during the regular school year so preventing ‘summer slide’ is very important. The programs are free and easily available to all,” she said.

“Our goal is to make reading fun and interesting so that children develop positive attitudes about books and reading and are more easily motivated to read,” she said.

Registration numbers and total reading minutes go up and down in 2013-17 statistics from the Arizona State Library on the summer reading programs in the Pinal County libraries, she said.

“I would have to say that there are a lot of variables that affect the registration numbers, so I don’t see an overall upward trend. In some cases there was an increase,” Ms. Keller said of 2013-17 statistics from the Arizona State Library.

“There are times when very small rural libraries struggle with funding and personnel, so that can affect the registrations also. We always hope for an increase in registrations, but sometimes it doesn’t happen,” she said.

Apache Junction Public Library had 2,118 children registered in the program in 2013, according to statistics provided by Ms. Keller that came from the Arizona State Library. No total reading minutes were available for 2013.

After 2013, total registered children and total reading minutes, according to the Arizona State Library statistics, were:

  • 2014: 828 – 192,440 minutes.
  • 2015: 1,599 – 588,240 minutes.
  • 2016: 1,528 – 247,200 minutes.
  • 2017: 1,706 – 738,000 minutes.

Queen Creek

The Queen Creek Branch Library, 21802 S. Ellsworth Road, is part of the Maricopa County Library District, which started registering children and adults June 1 for the summer reading program.

The program runs through Aug. 1. Visit read20az.com.

Participants log their summer reading activities for food rewards at Peter Piper Pizza and Rubio’s Coastal Grill. Additionally, people who log 1,000 points can choose a free book from an online marketplace, while supplies last, according to a release.

Participants can earn points not only for reading (a minute equals one point), but also for attending library events, completing online challenges and participating in community experiences, the release stated.

“Our program encompasses public libraries in Maricopa County – that is to say, our 18 county library branches and all of the municipal systems, about 62 libraries in total,” Andrew Tucker, communications administrator for Maricopa County Library District, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Last year, a total of 86,150 participants registered online between May 1 and Aug. 1, 2017. Of those, 27,942 earned 1,000 points, according to a summary and report of the Maricopa County Reads 2017 Summer Reading Program.

“The summer reading program is important for many reasons but, to narrow it down, we’re trying to help stem the summer slide – that effect when students lose what they learned during the school year from lack of exercising their mental muscles,” Mr. Tucker said.
“So we encourage reading 20 minutes per day every day. Additionally, we want to connect people to their community through events and community experiences,” he said.

“The summer reading program is very important to libraries all across the country,” Jenny Young, branch manager of the Queen Creek Branch Library, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“Queen Creek Library is part of the Maricopa County Library District and we want to promote the program to everyone. You do not need to have a library card in order to participate,” she said.

“The summer reading program is important to encourage early literacy in pre-readers, help prevent the summer slide (academic regression) in kids/teens and stimulate to mind in adults,” she said.

“We recommend reading at least 20 minutes per day to all participants. The program is opened to all ages and provides a great incentive to stay cool, indoors, and read,” Ms. Young said.

This year’s summer reading program theme is “Libraries Rock” and includes some fun events scheduled at the library, she said.
“We also have weekly prize drawings every Monday. Reading and logging at least 140 minutes each week, by Sunday night, makes you automatically entered into the weekly prize drawing,” she said.

The library posts details about prizes, events and more on its Facebook page: facebook.com/mcldqc, she said.

The Queen Creek Branch Library is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday and closed Sunday, according to mcldaz.org/custom/branches/queencreek.

Berenice Hernandez, a four-year resident of Queen Creek, said at the Queen Creek Branch Library that she and her children go to the library every week or two.

She likes that the branch offers a summer reading program.

“It’s nice that they have a variety of books that they can come to the library and look for books and it enhances the way that they develop in reading,” she said.

“It’s also nice that they have something to do during the summer – it’s not just watching TV, but it’s being used in a productive way,” Mrs. Hernandez said.

When asked if her children would be in the program this year, she said “I hope so. I’d like them to.”

San Tan Valley resident Kristine John also said her children have done the Queen Creek program in the past and planned to sign up.
“We plan on doing it, yes,” she said at the library.

“I love the fact that the kids get rewarded for what they’re already doing – the reading. It gives them a little bit of extra incentive,” Mrs. John said.

Last year her children read books and earned coupons for Mexican food, she recalled.

“We, honestly, read more than we do want the incentives, but it is nice for them to be able to get something to walk out with and be like ‘Yes I read,’” Mrs. John said.

Because she lives in Pinal County, she pays for a library card, she said. Her daughter attends Legacy Traditional School in Ironwood Crossings, which is in the town of Queen Creek, so she qualified for a student library card.

Not all parents are interested in the summer reading program.

Cori Gagnon, a two-year resident of Queen Creek, and her children recently rode bicycles to the library to pick up books.

Mrs. Gagnon says her children don’t need an incentive to read.

“Our kids read all of the time. They’re really good readers and we’ve just never incentivized it where if you read this many then we will give you a prize,” she said.

“It’s just reading’s a part of life and that’s what we do, so they read a ton during the summer and we’ve just never signed up for it. Nothing against them, just we never found an interest in it,” she said.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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