Summer vacation is approaching fast for students in Eastern Jackson County schools, and it tends to be a time where they start regressing in their reading skills, according to Mid-Continent Public Library CEO Steve Potter.

“When kids get out (of school), they forget a bit,” Potter said. “Teachers contend they spend the first month or two at the beginning of the school year to reteach reading skills.”

But there is a tradition held each summer at every Mid-Continent Public Library branch in the greater Kansas City area to prevent this “summer slide”: the Summer Reading Program, which began Monday and lasts until July 31.

The free program is split into three groups according to a reader’s age: Listen, from birth to age 6; Read, ages 6-11; and Teen, ages 11-plus.

In the listening portion of the summer reading program, children ages 6 and younger can listen to 24 books to earn a free book from Mid-Continent. Up to three paperback or board books may be earned during the program’s duration.

For the reading portion, readers can earn a free paperback book for every 360 minutes they either read or listen to a book. A maximum of three paperbacks can be earned over the summer as well. Participants in this group are required to log their books online at  or visit a library branch to pick up a log.

And finally, for the teen portion, readers can earn “teen bucks” for every book they read, followed by writing a book review that is at least 25 words in length, said Potter. The teen bucks can go toward library services, such as paying fines or buying books they can keep, he added.

Every reader in the Read and Teen programs will be entered into their branch’s drawing for either a LeapPAd Ultra or Kindle Fire HD after completing three summer reading logs, Potter said.

Apart from the three individual programs, there also is a group summer reading program that day cares, community centers and summer schools can join. Listeners of book readings can earn prizes and individual readers may earn their own prizes at their level. Groups are encouraged to contact their local Mid-Continent branch for registration.

Not only does Mid-Continent’s summer reading program stave off summer reading loss, said Potter, but it also can increase a child’s reading ability.

“If you participate in the summer reading program, you start right back where you left off.”

Potter said Mid-Continent and the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium conducted a study on children with “at-risk” characteristics, such as being enrolled in a school’s free or reduced lunch program, living in a single parent household or English not being their primary language, in three area school districts and found they actually grew in terms of reading skills if they participated in a summer reading program.

“(The summer reading program) doesn’t cost. Just participate and complete.”

A variety of activities and events are scheduled throughout the summer at local Mid-Continent branches, too, Potter added.

For more information about the summer reading program and a schedule of children's activities at each library, contact your local Mid-Continent branch or visit their website at .