Almost 600 children and teens came into the Santa Monica Public Library branches to sign up for summer reading, setting a new record for our first weekend. The program is in full swing now that school is out and the library is a perfect summer destination for youth. The Library expects 5,000 children and teens to participate in this popular program celebrating its 85th anniversary this summer. The last day of the program is Saturday, Aug. 15.

Children who don’t read during the summer can lose up to two months of learning by the time they return to school in the fall. According to research, a child who reads only one minute a day outside of school will learn 8,000 words by the end of sixth grade; a student who reads 20 minutes outside of school will be exposed to almost 2 million words. That’s a huge difference in vocabulary for just 20 minutes a day of reading. The Library stocks bestsellers, popular series, classics and informational books about hundreds of subjects of interest to youth.

The Library’s program is designed to be fun and educational, but also to help with this “summer slide.” This year, the program is themed around music with “Read to the Rhythm” for children and “Play Dance Read” for teens. Youth can read any books they like and time spent reading can be redeemed for music-themed prizes; the top prize is a paperback book to keep. The Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library sponsors the summer reading prizes and programs.

How does music and sound actually work? The Mad Science show at all libraries will answer these questions for children. Here’s a sampling of some fun children’s programs: marshmallow engineering at the Ocean Park branch, “jungle boogie” animal show at Main, One World Drumming at Montana and a bilingual family concert at Pico. There will be magic shows, puppet shows, Legos, films and crafts. Younger children will enjoy weekly storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Teens will want to attend our new cultural dance series featuring Brazilian, Bollywood and Cuban Salsa dance, crafts just for them using duct tape and old concert T-shirts, films and even teen karaoke night. Santa Monica High School students who join the reading club will receive a free copy of the school’s required reading book, “Ready Player One,” thanks to a donation from the Kiwanis Club (while supplies last). Middle school students can borrow from the extra copies the library has to support their summer reading lists.

If you know a teen who loves to write, the Library is offering “Write On! A Teen Writers’ Workshop” this summer at the Main Library. Workshop sessions will be led by young-adult genre authors and provide a unique experience for teens to work with professional writers. The Middle School Writers’ Workshop for teens in grades 6-8 runs June 23-25 from 3-5 p.m. The High School Writers’ Workshop for teens in grades 9-12 runs July 7-9 from 3-5 p.m. Each workshop will be limited to 15 participants, so interested teens are urged to sign up as soon as possible at the Main Library or call (310) 458-8621.

There’s lots to do for adults, too. Programs celebrating the music theme include author talks, musical performances, staged readings and movie screenings. Adults can sign up for summer reading just like kids and teens. Cardholders who turn in a “Read to the Rhythm” participation form by Wednesday, Aug. 12, will be eligible to win one of several prizes, including our grand prize: a Kindle Fire e-reader.

The Library is taking part in a challenge to get 1 million Californians into summer reading programs throughout the state. State Librarian Greg Lucas shared the importance of getting everyone involved, saying “Summer reading programs help prevent summer slide. They close the opportunity gap. They offer learning opportunities for all ages and build communities.”

For a complete list of library programs, visit smpl.org or call (310) 458-8600.

Roger Kelly is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Santa Monica Public Library. He invites kids to come visit “Rock Star Chompers,” the guitar-playing, Mohawk-sporting, sunglass-wearing T-Rex mascot at the Main Library.

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