BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – This summer the Rockingham Free Public Library’s annual summer reading program is expanding like never before – that is, on three wheels. With funding from Vermont Afterschool’s Summer Expanding Access grant, the Library will be introducing the Mobile Book Trike and a bigger summer reading program.
“Unlike many summer programs and camps, the Library summer reading program has always been free and open to the public,” says Youth Services Librarian Sam Maskell. “When we started looking at why some kids were not participating, despite wanting to, we discovered that simply getting to the Library can be difficult. Families are busy, childcare is a challenge, and young children may not have someone to take them to the Library. With this new program, we will bring all the fun, and, most importantly, the books, directly to the kids.”
The new Mobile Book Trike is a “tadpole tricycle,” with two wheels in the front and a specially designed crate that opens into book shelving. The trike will be outfitted with a solar-powered electrical “assist” to help get the trike up some of the steeper hills in the area and will provide free wifi at all stops. The Library will be building a new collection of books, DVD’s, and other materials for youth, prioritizing books for birth through middle grade readers, that will be available at the trike. And the Library will be hiring a young adult to fill a part-time Summer Assistant position.
The program kicks off in July. The Library will be offering its traditional summer program, which includes multiple weekly storytimes, hands-on STEAM projects, teen programs, special events and presentations, and much more, in addition to connecting youth with exciting and interesting books that they will enjoy, and reading rewards for taking part throughout the summer. Simultaneously, the Book Trike will start travelling around the village. Book Trike routes will be announced later in June.
The summer reading program has been a key priority at the Rockingham Free Public Library for decades. The program can have a positive impact helping youth avoid “summer learning loss,” which is the loss of academic achievement students experience during the summer. It is estimated that students can lose up to two months of reading achievement. As the pandemic enters its third year, recent studies now show that about one-third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, up significantly from before the pandemic. Children in every demographic group have been affected, but Black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families and those with disabilities, have fallen the furthest behind. As Maskell said, “One of the most effective ways to combat summer learning loss is to read! Summer is the best because kids can pick whatever they would like to read and read just for fun!” Summer learning research shows how important developing summer reading habits and having access to enrichment opportunities can combat learning loss and help build a solid foundation for success.