Books aimed at young readers are on display that the Downtown library in St. Joseph. The St. Joseph Library’s summer reading program saw more than 2,000 participants this year.

Students headed back to school Thursday to begin a new year, and while many kids may have taken the summer to rest, those who took the time to read throughout the break may have set themselves up for an easier back-to-school transition.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, spending time books during the summer months can prevent kids from becoming “rusty readers” and falling behind their peers. Through the St. Joseph Public Library’s summer reading program, 2,231 people of all ages kept their reading muscles strong throughout the season.

“We’re trying to keep kids engaged so that they’re ready to go back to school, because studies repeatedly show that kids who participate in the summer reading program don’t suffer from that summer slide,” said the library’s director, Mary Beth Revels.

The summer reading program was divided into four sections: babies, kids, teens and adults. The largest number of readers in the program came from school-aged children, with around 1,100 kids taking part.

“This year it was called ‘A Universe of Stories,’ kind of to go with the anniversary of landing on the moon,” Revels said. “That theme was used by libraries all over the country, so it’s a multistate theme which was kind of fun.”

Participants could read whatever they wanted for the program, from magazines to graphic novels. Even audiobooks were accepted. Babies taking part in the program were read to and practiced playing to expand their brains through the summer. The library also made an effort to include those who could not make it to the facilities by mailing books to home-bound readers.

Rather than log the number of books, library officials decided to add up hours of reading instead, making the program more approachable for those who may be slow readers.

“We want to make it as easy for people as possible, and for some people it takes them a long time to read a book, and others could read 12 books in a day,” Revels said. “Everybody is different with how they read, so we just thought that was a more consistent, easy way for people to mark what they read.”

According to Revels 11,661 hours were logged by the readers this summer.

Jessika Eidson can be reached


Follow her on Twitter at @NPNowEidson