Sherry Sampson's niece didn't enjoy reading until she won a teddy bear for completing a reading level at the Moffat County Library.
After winning the bear, the 9-year-old never wanted to miss the library's reading program, said Sampson, a librarian at Moffat County Library.
More children could learn to love to read when the library kicks off its summer reading program June 14. Open to readers age 4 to adult, the program rewards readers for every 10 books or five hours they read.
Offered at the Dinosaur and Maybell libraries as well as the library in Craig, the program is especially valuable because students who read during the summer usually perform better in school in the fall.
Debra Frazier teaches fifth grade at Craig Intermediate School. Each spring and fall, CIS students' reading skills are tested. Frazier said the fall scores are almost always lower than the scores from the previous spring.
"It takes a month or two for them to pick up on where they left off in fourth grade," Frazier said.
Like any skill, children become better at reading the more they do it. Frazier said 20 minutes of reading a day would be ideal practice.
However, she doubted most students read that much during the summer.
"We know children who read and (who) are read to do better in school. They do better in math and science, too, because all school skills come from reading," said Donna Watkins, Moffat County Library director. Watkins worked as a teacher before she became a librarian.
Children can build some of those skills at the reading hour the library hosts at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. every Thursday. Linda Putnam often reads to the children; she last read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." She often chooses books with a seasonal theme. For Mother's Day, she read Mother's Day books, and she'll do the same for Father's Day.
Putnam said she enjoys seeing the children come to the library for the reading hour year after year. Parents have brought infants as young as 12 months old for the readings.
The time children spend listening to stories can count toward the five hours of reading required to complete a level of the summer reading program. About 500 people participated in last year's summer reading program, Watkins said. About 150 of those people completed all three reading levels, meaning they read 30 books or for 15 hours.
This year, Sampson said she is working to get teenagers more involved in the program. Teens and adults can enter drawings to win prizes for completing the reading requirements.
Prizes for children include gift certificates from Dominoes Pizza, Kmart, Spirit Pass, Taco Bell, Holiday Inn, Wendy's, McDonald's, passes to the City Pool, Little Bear Valley Miniature Golf and a Rockies baseball game.
On Aug. 5, the library plans to host a literacy festival with games, face painting, story telling and a puppet show to celebrate what the staff expects to be another successful summer reading program.