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Seasonal program urges your children to start digging

Campbell Skow (left) just finished first grade at Rocky Branch Elementary School and said she was very excited to read to a dog. Zorro, the dog, was accompanied by his trainer Rachel Rhyner (right). Rebecca Rudolph photos1 / 2
Monica LaVold, River Falls Library youth service librarian, said she was excited to see the Dig into Reading board get filled with stickers through out the summer.2 / 2

This summer while parents may be digging in their gardens, their children are being encouraged to dig into reading, the theme of this summer’s reading program at the River Falls Public Library.

“Much of the reading program is going to be very familiar to people who have done it before,” said Monica LaVold, youth services librarian.

Children still document the time they spend reading, being read to or listening to audio books each day. The next time they go to the library, prizes will be waiting for them.

“I think there’s quite a lot of really neat prizes there, but as we have always done, our big prizes are books and have always been,” she said. “When you make your big prize, the gift of reading ... we’re trying to bring home the message that prizes are all well and good, but the real prize here is that you get to read.”

Besides the opportunity to earn two free books, children also have a chance to earn prizes like state park passes, Crystal Cave passes, Culver’s ice cream coupons, notepads, folders and other things.

April Mancl said Ava, her 9-year-old daughter, “puts away chapter books like nobody’s business,” and “genuinely loves to read.”

When asked if she was excited about the prizes in the summer reading program, she shook her head and said, “Just to read.”

For another mother, reading is a way for her children to keep learning once school is out for the summer.

“They did the reading program last year and they were pretty excited about that, so that’s why we came back,” said Vanessa Luther, a mother of two girls. “It keeps them going with the reading over the summer.”

“If you’re reading about plants, you get to learn more about plants,” Maria Luther, her daughter, said. “You get to learn more.”

One aspect that will be different this year is the collage of stickers children can contribute to.

For every hour of reading, children receive a one inch, colored sticker to put on a color-by- number-like poster of a garden, tying into the theme Dig into Reading.

“I think it will be a bit of a mess in an awesome way,” LaVold said. “I think we’ll have stickers stuck in strange places, but that’s how kids are.”

The poster has potential to show a “collaborative community pool of people reading at the library,” said LaVold. “I’m hoping by the end of the summer it’s just a wash of color.”

This sticker collage will replace the shape children used to move around to different parts of the library.

LaVold has also organized events every Wednesday until Aug. 7 for “young kids all the way up to middle school, or even adults.”

Traveling Lantern Theater Company came for the first event, and the next two will be storyteller Tracy Chipman, on June 19, and Global Games, presented by Mr. Fun on June 26.

The annual Kiddie Parade, held Saturday, July 13, during River Falls Days, will also be sponsored by the River Falls Public Library with the theme “homegrown.”

Registration for the Kiddie Parade begins at 10 a.m. outside the library, and at 10:30 the children will be marched around the library.

While dressing up is encouraged, LaVold said, “It’s as much or as little as you want to do.”

River Falls Royalty will be judging participation and awarding prizes, but she said “everyone’s a winner.”

The parade trail will lead children to face painting and a petting zoo, which last year, featured llamas, rabbits, donkeys and “all kinds of animals.”

Continuing through the summer will be the Paws to Read program that started in January.

Paws to Read is for children who are “learning to read, working on reading, or even if you’re a good reader and you just want to practice reading out loud,” said LaVold.

The dog, Zorro, is a soon-to-be-certified therapy dog that has been trained to listen to people read.

His trainer, Rachel Rhyner, will be present in the room with the child and Zorro while the child is reading during their 10-minute time slot, unless asked to step out by the reader.

There is research showing that reading to a dog like Zorro can improve a child’s reading skills because it is a less stressful learning environment where, LaVold said, “You don’t have to feel self-conscious.”

“Especially knowing how much research is behind it. It’s incredible what you can gain with time spent with animals.”

Said Campbell Skow, a Rocky Branch Elementary School student: “I’m most excited because I don’t normally get to read to a dog. It makes reading a little bit more fun for me.”

Her mother, Candice Skow, a Title One reading teacher at Rocky Branch, said her daughter has been reading half an hour to her every day, but when she saw Paws to Read, “she was excited about that opportunity.”

“Any dog can be a reading dog, but the biggest thing is that they need to be well behaved,” said  Rhyner. “The dog is not there to be loved by the kids; the dog needs to be supportive of the kid.”

At 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 6, there will be a “Paws to Read/ birthday celebration” for Zorro’s third birthday, said LaVold, who promised cupcakes.

This summer there will be a new teen program that meets every month to supplement the teen book club.

The four weekly story times will also continue throughout the summer for young children birth to age five.

“It’s a huge important piece for early literacy and building those skills,” she said.

Lego Afternoons will continue as well, but LaVold said, “they fill up fast, so you have to sign up for a spot.”

With all that is going on, “I would love to see 1,000 kids come through that door this summer,” said LaVold. “That would be just fabulous.”

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