Dive into the pool ... and into reading

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What could possibly be better for kids this summer than a combination of swimming and reading.


That was the message delivered last week when it was announced that the Greene County commissioners and the county’s department of recreation are partnering with the Greene County Library System to pilot a new summer reading program called “Canary Library.”


Throughout the summer, carts containing library books for all ages will be available at each of the three Greene County pool sites – Alpha Aquatic Center in Waynesburg, Carmichaels Pool in Carmichaels and Mon View Pool in Greensboro.


Children will be encouraged to take a book, read and enjoy it, then either return it to the pool or keep it – all for free and without a library card. The carts will contain books for readers of all ages and interests.


We think this is quite a novel idea – pardon the pun – considering that many surveys show that two-thirds of students cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade. Moreover, literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success, according to numerous studies. Research shows that children and adults who have low literacy skills have poor educational, employment and health outlooks. Many of these children will not graduate from high school, will earn barely enough to stay above the poverty line and will be more likely to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviors, according to the First Book organization.


This program may be considered a baby step toward resolving the problem of illiteracy, but it’s a step in the right direction. The commissioners, the recreation department and the county library system should be commended for their insight and their efforts to get kids excited about reading in a fun and enjoyable setting.


We also should note this “canary library” will provide an additional learning experience for the recreation department’s summer day-camp program at various locations across the county. Along with an afternoon swim, campers will now have access to a variety of books provided by the county library system.


We were fascinated by the use of “canary” in the county program’s name, but soon came to realize it symbolizes an early warning that the often fast-paced lives of families today are leaving less time for reading and access to books, creating the absence of a family literary tradition and deteriorating the reading skills of children.


And since Greene County has a history of being a mining community, there was a time when canaries were once used to warn miners of toxic gases or fumes. Now, as a representative from the recreation department said, “We are symbolizing the canary library as to make everyone aware of the alarming statistics.”


If we hold to the assumption that literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals and to develop knowledge and potential, then we have no doubt the Canary Library will take flight in Greene County.


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