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Beyond the Shelf: Don’t forget to leave your paw print on this summer’s La Jolla Library reading program

Beyond the Shelf logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Beyond the Shelf is a monthly column about the activities and people at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

There’s a purpose behind the Summer Reading Program pandemonium at the La Jolla Library. A featured event marks the end of each week; Seaside Storytime at Scripps Park bursts with bubbles every Wednesday at 4 p.m.; and prizes such as museum passes and food coupons disappear like hotcakes. Young finishers delight in writing their name on one of the Odi the Coyote (San Diego Public Library’s mascot) paw prints on the library walls, all in the spirit of this year’s “Read Beyond the Beaten Path” theme.

Five-year-old Jade Van Deweghe was among the 86 people who encountered a rabbit, guinea pig, dog and tortoise at the San Diego Humane Society’s “All About Pets” event June 17. She can’t wait to attend upcoming music and dance programs at the library, and her eyes light up at the mention of logging all 10 of the activities required to complete the reading program.

“I’m excited to see what the prizes are,” she exclaimed as she beheld the prize station behind the youth desk.

Young readers get their paw prints at the La Jolla/Riford Library to mark their completion of the Summer Reading Program.
Young readers get their Odi the Coyote paw prints at the La Jolla/Riford Library to mark their completion of this year’s Summer Reading Program.
(Courtesy of Katia Graham)

Research indicates that children who participate in a summer reading program at their local public library have better academic performance in the next school year. Teachers also report that those students do better in literacy and even attitude. Summer reading also helps curb the notorious summer slide — the reading and math regression that often happens over the months-long summer break.

Post-COVID, the summer slump that threatens to engulf students more closely resembles a pandemic-size crater. Families are now looking to make up losses in social-emotional and academic learning. To help, the library’s Math and Reading Buddies program will continue throughout the summer from 4 to 5 p.m. every Monday.

La Jolla High School senior Emily Chen is one of the teens who frequently devotes her time to reading with elementary-age children during the program. “Reading with kids is rewarding, especially when we have all missed out on social connectivity,” she said.

I’m smitten with the idea of reading beyond the beaten path, because one thing I often tell families is that there is no “right way” to read. The reading we do in our youth profoundly influences us. Some of the most cherished moments of my childhood were spent up in a tree with my father, with him telling me stories of his own youth in El Salvador. The serotonin released when children are cuddled and supported promotes learning during story time.

So make progress on your Summer Reading Program log by building a family fort, reading with a flashlight and reading a book (or two!) outside. Better still, check out a classic like “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne and enjoy a nightly family read-aloud.

Adults also can participate in the Summer Reading Program. Research shows that reading increases empathy, builds vocabulary, prevents cognitive decline, reduces stress and even aids sleep. Who shouldn’t sign up for that?

“My book club gets me out of the house and connects me with friends from totally different walks of life,” said La Jolla Library patron Kim Chao. “Isn’t that what books do, too?”

This summer, top off all those benefits of reading with earned tickets to the San Diego Natural History Museum and a book to keep from the Friends of La Jolla Library’s bookstore. Weary of getting back in the reading groove? Start small. Reading for just 20 minutes a day is shown to increase attention span.

Stop by the youth desk when you’re ready to claim your Summer Reading Program prizes. Regardless of your age, you can probably persuade staff to let you add a paw print to the wall. With your name on it.

Katia Graham is the youth services librarian at the La Jolla/Riford Library. She presents story times in English and Spanish and coordinates programming for children and teenagers. To register for the Summer Reading Program, visit sandiego.beanstack.org or go to lajollalibrary.org for a rundown of events. For more information, email GrahamK@sandiego.gov.