Everett Wood watches as the librarian pens his name to the front of his passport to reading this summer. Everett hopes to earn a medal or book by reading 15 to 20 minutes each day this summer.

Greater Victoria Public Reading Summer Reading Club reaps sweet rewards

Oak Bay boasts highest use of seasonal literacy program that promotes fun reading

Everett Wood still talks about the day last month Devon Tatton visited Willows elementary.

The memorable combination of the librarian’s blue hair and charismatic sales pitch at all area elementary schools this spring drew well beyond 1,000 kids to swing by the Oak Bay library for reading records in the first three weeks of the summer reading program Book a Trip.

Wood recalls the day Tatton touted the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Summer Reading Club that offers weekly prizes for children 12 and younger to encourage them to read 15 to 20 minutes every day. Since registration began June 23, more than 3,000 children have registered across the GVPL.

“I did it last time and I got a medal,” the six-year-old said.

The Wood family moved here in November, and “last time” Everett lived in Vancouver.

“We’re new to the community and this was one of the first things Everett wanted to do here,” said Daphne. “He wanted to go get his new library card.”

Summer Reading Club is a provincial program that aims “to improve reading proficiency and serves as a bridge between the end and beginning of the school year, so kids don’t fall behind in their learning and development,” said Maureen Sawa, GVPL CEO.

This year, Everett is part of the regional library branch that had the highest participation last summer. The Oak Bay branch handed out the most reading records of any GVPL branch at 1,261, about 18 per cent of the total 7,122 across the region. The completion rate – kids who filled the entire reading record of 15 to 20 minutes every day – was 33.1 per cent, slightly higher than the GVPL-wide average of 32.7 per cent.

“It’s fabulous. It’s something that keeps him engaged all summer,” said Everett’s mom Daphne Wood. “When he goes back to school in September his reading level is not only maintained, it’s enhanced.”

As she neared the end of her explanation of summer reading price incentives, Tatton asks Everett, “Do you like pizza?”

Eyes lit up and with a big grin, Everett nodded.

The prizes grow in value each week, thanks to contributing Oak Bay businesses as well as the GVPL’s Friends of the Library volunteer organization that bolstered the Summer Reading Club with a $10,000 donation.

“We see how important it is for kids to keep learning and reading throughout the summer. We’re glad to be contributing to their education in a fun, engaging way,” said Irwin Henderson, president.

Funds will also augment summer programs such as storytimes, puppet shows, themed programs, and science and health activities. The group also committed $20,000 to support the redesign of GVPL’s public website, launching in 2017.

“The volunteers have given hundreds of hours to fundraising for the library, and the positive impact of their generosity is felt every day,” said GVPL board chair Kevin Murdoch, also an Oak Bay resident. “Thousands of children will enjoy learning this summer thanks to their support, and the community at large will welcome a new and improved website, the library’s ‘virtual branch,’ to help them explore GVPL’s collections and resources to keep learning and growing.”

GVPL offers Summer Reading Club at all of its 11 branches. In 2015, more than 7,100 children in Greater Victoria participated. Adults and teens can participate in a special summer program, too – the Summer Challenge, which encourages them to engage with books and reading through an online contest. Learn more about the Summer Reading Club for kids and the Summer Challenge for adults at gvpl.ca.