More than 20% of Charleston County School District (CCSD) students further enriched their brains this summer over last year through participation in the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) Summer Reading Program. CCPL and CCSD formed their partnership in 2018 to join forces in helping students and children read more than ever during the summer months through the library’s annual Summer Reading program, which provides incentives for reading.

“We know the summer slide is real and students who don’t read during the summer will be less prepared when school resumes,” said CCPL executive director Angela Craig. “We are proud that when this school year started, more children and teens were ready thanks to the reading they did with us over the summer.”

The programs for children, teens and adults ran between June 8 and Aug. 17 and featured hundreds of free events and prizes provided by generous community sponsors. As part of the collaboration with CCSD, every student was automatically registered for the program.

Overall, the program’s number of participants rose from last year by nearly 15% to 9,668. The number of points logged, which correspond to amount of reading, rose by 40%. CCPL also experienced growth in the number of kids and teens who completed the program, which increased by three percent in the children’s program and 36% in the teen program. Every grade level also had a higher level of participation- between 40 and 60% over last year.

"It was exciting to see the Charleston County Public Library summer reading program take off," added CCSD Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait. "Our communities are fortunate that our library system is committed to deepening reading skills and developing greater appreciation for reading. We deeply appreciate our partnership with CCPL and look forward to successful collaboration throughout the year."

CCPL officials attribute the increases to new efforts made this year to break down barriers and provide more resources. This year, to reach children and teens who previously hadn’t participated due to transportation barriers to the library, the library launched Pop-Up Libraries in areas that were underserved. Library staff visited these areas with library materials available for check out, fun activities, giveaways and the ability to log reading and pick up prizes. The 20 pop-up events in areas like Wadmalaw, Awendaw and North Charleston, saw an attendance of 880 and more than 85 prizes were awarded during the events. CCPL also heavily promoted CARTA’s summer initiative to provide free rides to CCSD students.

“At the end of last year, we worked with the school district in really identifying ways we could increase our reach to more students,” said Natalie Hauff, director of Programming, Outreach and Communications. “We heard from parents, teachers and patrons and used that feedback to make improvements to this year’s program including adjusting the dates to align better with the end and start of the school year.”

CCPL and CCSD also made sure while they fed minds, they also fed bellies. The two organizations partnered to serve hot lunches to children 18 and under at several library locations. A partnership with the Lowcountry Food Bank also allowed for the serving of snacks at two rural library locations. More than 8,000 meals were served during the summer.

“We saw kids lining up this summer outside libraries to pick up their free lunch and stick around for some of our summer programs,” said Devon Andrews, CCPL’s Strategic Programming and Outreach Manager. “Beyond fighting the summer slide of reading, we were able to curb hunger, and that is so valuable to our mission.”

The Summer Reading Program is funded by the Charleston Friends of the Library. For more information on other library programs throughout the year, visit ccpl.org.