The following story first appeared in the June 2 North Ridgeville Press

With competition from video games, iPods and cell phones, is it possible children still read books?

Area librarians answered that question last week with a resounding “Yes!” Some teachers, especially at the middle school level, require summer reading, while at times, students really do read because they enjoy it.

“It’s important to read,” said Beth Gee, media specialist and head of North Ridgeville City Schools’

library program for grades K-8. “We have strong readers in every building. If the kids like (to read), they are still doing it.”

She added she has not seen a decline in readership as technology has become more prevalent.

According to Gee, who works with advanced first grade readers at Lear North Elementary School, children often have a good grip on reading even before they start school.

“In kindergarten, we have added a whole section of chapter books,” she said. “The kindergarten of today is not what it was.”

Gee said the “Wimpy Kid” series of books by Jeff Kinney and “How to Speak Dragonese” by Cressida Cowell are popular among young readers, but the children still go for updated versions of “oldies but goodies,” such as the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.

Younger middle school students also like “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series according to librarian Beth Gramp, as well as other favorites, including the “Twilight” collection and Harry Potter’s adventures. Typical for the age, Gramp said some children are more into reading than others.

“The ones that do read are voracious,” she said, adding for the most part it seems the better students are those who read – but not always. “Some read to

escape difficulties.”

Students are encouraged to read during the summer through the middle school media center’s website, which posts titles on the Accelerated Reader List. Gramp explained the list offers online tests, set up by language arts teachers. Points are based on the length and difficulty of a book and are factored into a student’s grade.

While sixth- and seventh-graders may choose from titles only on the list, eighth-graders can peruse any book, with six suggestions currently online. The fact many popular books have found their way onto the big screen has been taken into account.

“When a movie comes out, we make sure the questions can’t be answered by watching the movie,” Gramp said.

Judging from the success of the North Ridgeville

Library’s summer reading program, it seems many children are receptive to reading – even when they don’t have to.

“We’ve seen a big increase in the amount of teens (participating),” North Ridgeville Library’s children’s librarian Angela Young said.

More than 200 students entering grades 6-12 signed up for last year’s summer reading program. She added that 1,200 children from preschool to grade five were involved as well, reflecting a slight increase. Young said this year’s program, “Make a Splash: Read,” kicks off from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday at South Central Park’s Splash Pad. Registration begins Saturday.

Young explained younger children are rewarded with a prize for every four hours spent reading. Teens are given a prize for every three books read and may read up to 12.

“The program is based on earning free books or gift cards,” she said, adding the library “can’t keep the ‘Wimpy Kid’ books on the shelf.”

Harry Potter books, as well as “Star Wars,” are also popular. The littlest readers still enjoy “The Magic School Bus” and anything about superheroes, she said. In addition to “Twilight,” Young said teens gravitate

toward the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series by Rick Riordan, as well as toward graphic novels.

Technology provides a popular form of reading catch-up. The library offers “Play Aways,” which are MP3 players loaded with one book.

“The kids love them because they can operate them by themselves,” Young said, adding the devices can make a long car trip much more enjoyable because each child is able to listen to his or her own choice.

Regardless of the type of book, Gee emphasized there’s really no shortcut to achieving reading success.

“The more you practice, the better you get,” she said.

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