At Park Ridge library, summer reading is social affair
Parents and children gather outside the Park Ridge Public Library on June 8 to sign up for the Summer Reading Club. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:59PM
They were lined up out the door, minor crowd-control measures in place to make sure just the right number of people were allowed inside at one time.
The scores of largely young children and pre-teens weren’t waiting to meet a hot, new teen celebrity or get their hands on some front-row concert tickets. They were in line to register for the Park Ridge Public Library’s summer reading program.
Registration began June 8 and the first day alone saw 1,229 children, teens and adults sign up for one of the three reading clubs offered, according to Kelly Durov, Children’s Services Department Manager.
Within five days more than 1,400 children, from birth to sixth-grade, had registered, Durov said.
Reading is, of course, big business at the Park Ridge Public Library. But interest in summer reading clubs is even bigger.
“Summer reading has been popular in Park Ridge for many years,” Durov said. “I think part of it is because parents and teachers are so proactive at making sure kids’ reading abilities don’t slip as they take the summer off. It’s important in this community, I think, that kids continue to read, even though they don’t have assignments from school.”
Jan Parafinczuk, of Park Ridge, was one of the many parents lined up with school-age children on the kickoff day to the food-themed “Reading is so Delicious” club.
“She’s always got a book in her hand,” Parafinczuk said of her 10-year-old daughter, Aleah, whose participation in Battle of the Books keeps her busy reading the whole year. Parafinczuk was also registering her son, Christian, 12, for the summer reading club.
“I think its beautiful to read,” she said. “It helps you with your vocabulary, helps with the speed of your reading.”
Nearby in line, Brittany Wisowaty, a Park Ridge fifth-grader, expressed interest in reading from the “Ivy and Bean” series by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall.
Mom Maria Kappel was signing up son Ben for the reading program because, she said, “It makes it a little more fun for him to practice his reading and he gets to see his other friends while participating.”
“It does get them motivated to read,” agreed parent Marie Hopkins, who was signing up her children in order to keep them reading books while school’s not in session.
Durov said studies have shown that children who join summer reading programs tend to keep their reading kills up when they head back to school in the fall. It’s also a chance for them to do “leisure reading,” which isn’t always an option during the required-reading days of the school year.
For children’s summer reading clubs, prizes are given based on the number of minutes read. For children up to first grade the goal is for an adult to read to them for 400 minutes by summer’s end, while children entering Grades 2-6 are encouraged to read for a total of 600 minutes.
Young adults who read five books this summer can receive a free paperback and enter to win a video-game system. Adults who sign up to read at least four books of their choice can earn chances to win gift certificates from restaurants, cooking classes and more.
Families who sign up together and reach their reading goals can enter to win a one-night stay at the Waverton Hotel/Mayan Adventure Waterpark in Elmhurst.
But outside the library’s summer reading club exists another type of organized reading endeavor: the book club.
Book clubs are also very popular in Park Ridge — the Park Ridge Public Library assists roughly 60 clubs by providing them with actual books, as well as discussion questions and topics.
“We’ll work with any book club that operates in Park Ridge,” said Maggie Hommel, manager of Reader Services.
The library has been serving community book clubs since 1984 and has hosted its own on-site clubs since 1977, Hommel said. There are five clubs now meeting, each focused on a specific genre.
Book clubs in the community are affiliated with churches, community organizations or just consist of a group of good friends who want to share their love of reading.
At St. Paul of the Cross Church a book club was formed in 1997 after a parish priest published a book and a parishioner expressed interest in a group where such work could be discussed. The group, which draws an average of 15 to 20 readers each month, doesn’t focus simply on religious texts, though. Members have read everything from “The English Patient” to “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
For the Park Ridge Newcomers Book Club the title of the month can lead to a theme night at the home of the member where the discussion is taking place. When members read “The Kitchen House,” by Kathleen Grissom, the host made a molasses cake using a recipe featured in the novel, member Gail Haller said.
In July Haller will be hosting the discussion of a Charlaine Harris novel. Members try to choose books that aren’t currently “hot sellers” so they are easily accessible through the Park Ridge Library, she said.
“It has us read books we might not necessarily read on our own,” Haller said of the Newcomers Book Club.
The social component is also a draw.
“We enjoy each other and the fact that no one person is always burdened with being a host,” she said. “We get to move from house to house each month, so that’s fun. Getting together and catching up with each others’ lives once a month is fun.”
According to Lynn Zmija, a library assistant at the Park Ridge Public Library, the start of Oprah Winfrey’s extremely popular book club in 1996 spawned the growth of book clubs within Park Ridge. Just two years after Oprah’s club launched, the number of clubs seeking books from the Park Ridge library grew from 10 to 30.
“Today we service 61 clubs, ordering, processing and distributing close to 500 books each month,” Zmija said.