Grand Island area elementary schools are encouraging students to read this summer by opening their school libraries.

At 1-R School, the library is open for story hour every Monday morning during June and July to allow 1-R students to read, be read to and do crafts. Librarian Jacey McGowan said there has not been a story hour at 1-R for the past two summers, and the school wanted to “get it rolling again” to give students access to books over the summer.

“We wanted to have the library open at least once a week during the summer so kids could come here and get books,” she said. “They can go to the Grand Island Public Library or the St. Paul Public Library depending upon where they live, but we wanted to give the kids an option to come here to 1-R if they wanted to. We have about 20 minutes to check out books, about a 20-minute craft and the last 20 minutes is spent reading aloud.”

McGowan said the 1-R story hour has had anywhere from 14 to 21 students attend. She said each week, there is a theme and students read books and do crafts relating to that theme.

During Monday’s story hour, Shay McGowan, a dentist at Grand Island Dental Center, read the kids a story about teeth and educated them about the subject.

Incoming fourth-graders Tyron Rey and Gaje Rodenbaugh both attended story hour Monday morning. Rey said he enjoys being able to check out books from the school library and read them at home. Rodenbaugh said his favorite books to read are ones about baseball. Both said they have read a number of books due to participating in story hour this summer.

McGowan said she feels story hour is “very important” for students as they are able to have access to books in a rural area when they may not be able to get to the public libraries.

“If kids see that reading is important to parents or teachers, then they will think it is more important,” she said.

Story hour has a number of positives for students, McGowan said, as they are able to pick up where they left off in the spring due to reading over the summer.

“The more time students spend with books, having fun and doing fun things, the more they see reading as a positive thing rather than a negative thing,” she said. “We are just trying to bring more positivity back to reading.”

McGowan said she hopes story hour will be something 1-R does every summer.

Newell Elementary School Principal Nate Balcom said his school opens its library to students every Thursday afternoon during June and July for summer library checkout. He said this is the first year the school has offered summer library checkout to its students.

“The school recognized that our neighborhood is quite a distance from the (Grand Island Public) Library and our kids cannot get downtown all (the) time to get books,” Balcom said. “We figured we would open our library to help them out.”

During Newell’s summer library checkout, Balcom said students spend “a lot of time reading,” with teachers coming in to read to the students. He added students also read individually and in groups.

“We have had a couple impromptu book clubs where kids check out the same books together and sit and read together,” Balcom said. “It is very exciting to see the kids enjoying books.”

Balcom said the summer library checkout averages about 25 students a week and has had approximately 70 individual students show up so far this summer.

He said the positives of summer reading checkout are kids developing an excitement for reading, discovering new books and getting to interact with their peers who also attend the weekly event.

“We hope to continue to see the growth students have made over the spring and continue it in the summer time,” Balcom said.

Celine Swan, youth services librarian at the Grand Island Public Library, said any school that opens their libraries and gets kids to read can be seen as a positive for students.

“It is a win-win for everyone,” she said. “I think everybody works toward the same goal which is good. I do not feel like we are in competition with the schools. We have been trying to encourage kids to read. It is a good supplemental way to keep kids reading. The main thing in my heart, and all those teachers’ hearts, is that kids have success with their reading.”

Swan said students who read during story hours at their school’s library are able to log those minutes online as part of the Grand Island Public Library’s summer reading program. If they come to the library, they can redeem their minutes for prizes.

In all, Swan said it is important that kids read when school is not in session.

“If kids do not read over the summer, they are going to do that slip-and-slide thing where their grades go down or they may not perform as well in the classroom in the fall,” she said. “I know kids will sometimes start out ‘gung-ho’ and then get into other activities. The last couple weeks, parents will realize they need to get their kids reading again before they go back to school. It is not too late to do so.”

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