The summer reading club began amidst laughter and applause at the Merritt library last Wednesday thanks to a magical performance for kids ages five to 12.
About 100 people gathered at the library for a performance by Vancouver-based magician Matthew Johnson, who entertained the crowd with such tricks as balloon swallowing.
Much like that entertaining experience, this year’s summer reading program itself has a focus on entertainment. Once a week, participants will meet at the library for a party, Merritt library head Deborah Merrick told the Herald.
“Instead of having the kids come in to classes where they do crafts and things like that, we’re going to actually have a party every single week for the different age groups,” Merrick said.
Planned parties include a pirate theme, Candyland theme and even a theme based on the minions from the movie Despicable Me.
This year, participants will do most of their reading at home.
“The kids stay at home and they read 15 minutes a day and for every 15 minutes, they get a little check mark and there are prizes,” Merrick told the Herald.
She said last year’s reading club was more structured with crafts and reading activities.
“This time, it’s a party,” Merrick said.
“It’s designed so that the kids do a lot of the reading at home, but they want to come in each week because there’s a big party,” she said, adding that one benefit of this model is kids needn’t be concerned with missing a week – because of a vacation, for example.
Merrick said reading has different advantages at various ages. She said one reason the library holds the summer reading program for local children is because if they don’t read during the summer, come the start of the new school year, they could fall behind the 8-ball.
“They basically have lost a few months of their reading level. If they read during the summer, they are often further ahead when they start out, so it gives them an advantage when they go back to school,” Merrick said.
She said the reading club also provides the youth an opportunity to spend time with their friends and see reading is valuable to others.
“Reading itself has the ability to allow us to see the world through other people’s eyes, so it broadens people’s views of the world. It allows people to empathize with other cultures and other societies and social strata,” Merrick said.
“Novels create the ability to see the world other than through your own experiences,” she said.
There is a summer reading club for all ages this year. In addition to the one for children, there is also one for teens and one for adults.
Johnson was also on hand to perform a magic show for the commencement of the adult summer reading program later that evening.