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Aug. 10, 2014 @ 11:28 AM

If you add all the minutes read during the summer reading program, they’d equal a time span of close to four years. .

Organizers said readers from all age groups read over 2 million minutes this summer and wrote over one thousand book reviews.

This year’s summer reading program was “Fizz, boom, read” and had a science theme to it. On Saturday, organizers took that theme and brought the finale of the reading program to the Museum of Life and Science for participants and their families to explore and get more hands on experiences.

This year has been a big year for numbers, organizers said.

“In terms of kids participating, we have about 5,000 kids, not including the outreach numbers we’ve done with our bookmobile,” Sarah Alverson, a librarian with Durham County Libraries said.

 Lynne Barnette, Southwest Regional Library manager and Summer Reading committee chair, said the program also catered to teens and adults.

Reading programs like the one the Durham County Library maintained has a wealth of benefits for students during their summer vacations.  

“Summer reading helps keep people engaged in reading, and literature and activities,” Barnette said. “(It) helps them maintain the level they are at school so they don’t have a drop-off.”

Amy Godfrey, a children’s librarian with Durham County Library, said other activities beyond reading were held throughout the summer to keep participants engaged with the local libraries — even though the main goal of the program was to keep them reading.

“Studies have shown that kids that don’t read over the summer experience what is called the ‘summer slide,’” Godfrey said. “Where they actually start the next year farther behind then they were at the end of the last school year.”

However, those who read throughout the summer can start of the school year ahead of where they were when they left, Godfrey said.

The reading program also branches out to help engage older readers, who might already be out of school.

“By bringing teens and adults in, we’re trying to make it a family and community event and promote that even if you’re not in elementary school, everyone should be reading,” Godfrey said.

One of those adults, 23-year-old Melissa Chamberlain, getting involved in the reading program because of her friends.

“We’re all together in a reading club (through the library),” Chamberlain said. “So we love going to library events.”

Godfrey also said getting parents involved helps model good reading habits.

“Part of the library’s role is to get them excited about it,” Alverson said. “We introduced a lot of kids to science fiction this summer.”

The program also offers a point system for participants, Barnette said. Points were earned through a multitude of ways.

“You get points for reading, attending a program, writing a book review,” she said. Book reviews became a popular way to earn points. During last year’s summer program, only 60 reviews were made. This year that jumped to 1000.

Points could also be earned through exploring the electronic databases the library provides.

Alverson that was a way to help readers learn the modern technology associated with the library.

Those points could be redeemed for prizes. Alverson said using the point system also taught participants about the importance of decision making.

“They can choose to save up for something that they really, really want,” she said. “Or they can spend them on prizes immediately.”

Chamberlain said she used some of her points to get a T-shirt of a modified periodic table of elements that displayed well-known authors instead.

Beth Smedley, 18, said using the point system was an easy way to keep track of her reading.

“It’s a good motivator,” she said.

Godfrey said using points helped engage readers with other aspects of the library and programs they were putting on.

“It was very simple, basic and easy to use,” Barnette said.

The summer reading program also helps garner attention for services the library offers, Alverson said.

“A lot of people don’t know the incredible electronic resources we have,” she said.

Even though Chamberlain and Smedley were part of the older age range of readers, they still found the reading program worthwhile and encouraged adults to participate next year.

“It’s a great time, and it’s a great way to get away from the electronic world,” Chamberlain said. “I think it’s a great way for the community to connect too.”

“Plus a lot of people just don’t read enough,” Smedley added.