How the Carnegie Library Continues to Foster a Love of Reading, Learning Over the Summer

Branches across the Pittsburgh region have launched the Summer Reading Program and encourage readers to “Find Their Voice” now through Aug. 6.
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I have always found solace in escaping into the written world and identifying with the characters described in the pages.

When I was (much) younger, I frequently visited the South Side branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Summer was my favorite time of year, and not just for the obvious reasons.

I was a Summer Reading Program participant and always wanted to log as many books as I could to receive the colorful stamps (especially animals) on my paper and whatever prizes were being awarded.

Armed with piles of Ann M. Martin’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” series, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books, I would make my way to the ornate wooden counter where Mrs. Barbara Anne Rogers was waiting to check my selections out.

Generations of readers in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere have had similar experiences over the years, and can continue those traditions (or start new ones) this summer.

The 2023 Summer Reading season began June 11, and runs through Aug. 6 at all 19 Carnegie library branches for readers of all ages.

This year, the library is promoting self-expression and encouraging all to “Find Their Voice” while reading books, magazines (ahem) or ebooks, or even listening to audiobooks.

“Summer at the Library is all about encouraging reading, learning, discovery, fun and self-expression during the out-of-school months, and this year, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s goal is to increase the number of patrons who participate and get all participants to read at least five books over the summer,” a library press release reads. 

Each branch is holding its own kickoff celebration for registered participants, with the annual blowout Extravaganza to be held at the main library, 4400 Forbes Ave. (Carnegie Lecture Hall) in Oakland at the end of the season on Sunday, Aug. 13.

Participating kids and teens are encouraged to log their books either online or on a provided paper book log. The library will use the Beanstack platform for logging summer reading, which can be done online in Beanstack or in the Beanstack Tracker app. Library staff can also log patrons’ reading for them.

“Here at the library, we look forward to summer reading all year long because it’s an opportunity to connect with families and individuals of all ages through the love of reading and stories, and to instill healthy goal-setting habits that encourage everyone to continue learning and exposing themselves to new things,” said Lisa Dennis, CLP’s coordinator of children’s and teens collections, in the release. “Numerous studies show that reading over the summer prevents ‘summer learning loss.’ And youth who read five books over summer vacation are better prepared to start school in the fall.”

The Summer Reading Program is supported by sponsors and partners including presenting sponsor EQT, program partners August Wilson African American Cultural Center and the Pittsburgh CLO, and corporate sponsors including Chase, Duolingo and UPMC Health Plan.

Prizes for participants include a reusable Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh bag, gift cards in each age group (early learners, kids, teens and adults), drawings for readers who log at least five books and experiential prizes for patrons who log the most books. One grand prize will be given per branch.

If you can’t find the plot of interest in reading all summer, free books (while supplies last) will still be given to children and teens who visit the library this season.

Marta Honores, CLP’s assistant director of programs and partnerships, says the program’s goals are to keep youth from entering the “summer slide” or the learning loss children can experience from being outside of the classroom.

“Over the summer, access to reading diminishes,” she adds. “We meet parents and kids where they are to help keep their reading and learning skills sharp over the summer. The program also encourages people to have fun with the library and highlights the great things we do with and for the community.”

Honores grew up in a small town in West Virginia, and also recalls her excitement to complete summer reading. Her town’s library hasn’t changed in 35 years, and still has her favorite reading nook. She preferred reading mystery novels by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike.

“I remember getting star stickers every time we turned in our book logs,” she says. “I have two little ones and I bring them to the library, too, and they also look forward to it. I am grateful to be instilling those memories into my children, and it’s great to see other families carrying on those traditions, as well.”

Once the program ends, patrons will be treated to the Extravaganza where they can enjoy music, crafts, games, storytelling, food trucks and networking with fellow book lovers. 

Honores says a prize will also be given at the Extravaganza to the person who submits the best guess for the total number of books read across the library system.

“We are excited to get back to the tried and true things about summer reading that everyone remembers,” adds Honores. “We want to get everyone uplifted and excited, and get them reading and learning. I think since the pandemic, everyone is ready to feel whole and be a community again.”

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