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May 29, 2013

Summer Reading Program inspired by ’60s nostalgia

INDIANAPOLIS — When a program’s been running for 94 consecutive years, chances are it’s big.

That’s certainly the case with the Indianapolis Public Library’s annual Summer Reading Program. It’s had more than 50,000 participants for several years now, topping out at 58,000 in 2012.

“It’s kind of amazing when you think about it,” said Jackie Nytes, CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library. “It may not be the longest-running program we’ve had, but it’s absolutely one of them.”

This year’s edition runs June 3 through July 27 at all Marion County libraries, including Beech Grove. The theme is “Read Together Right Now” and includes ’60s pop culture, notably The Beatles. The cover band BritBeat officially kicks off festivities with a free performance 2 p.m. June 1 at the Central Library.

Nytes gave credit to the library’s program development staff for coming up with the nostalgic association.

“They are the ones every year who try to gauge what it is that’s clicking with the kids, and try to connect that with some of the principles or concepts that we’ve been focusing on at the library,” she said.

That includes an international component. Not only can participants earn prizes through the number of reading points they accumulate, but they can redeem them to select and donate books through Christel House International Learning Centers and the Indiana Members Foundation. Both help needy children locally and in India, South Africa, and Mexico.

“We’re trying to raise a little sense of philanthropy with the kids too, and asking them to share,” Nytes said.

The Summer Reading Program is undoubtedly integral to the library’s overall mission. Nytes says it’s more important than ever to promote reading competency.

“Studies have shown there’s slippage over the summer (with reading),” she said. “Because of that we’re very invested in trying to reduce that slippage and try to make sure kids are continuing to practice their reading over the summer. Practice makes perfect, whether it’s sports or piano. The same thing applies to reading.”

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