The middle school duel

Summer vacation is upon us, but principals are still keeping tabs

What time is it? Queue up that old Alice Cooper track...

The June bugs are thwacking. The humidity is creeping. The neighbors are hanging about the hedges. Honeysuckle is on a rampage, dogs are panting with dorky grins on their sun-hot faces, and the sno cone stand is calling our names. Yup, the signs all point to it: summer is upon us. 

click here for summer reading program

At the library, those who staff the children’s area perform a mental huddle before schools let out this week, when the pitter-patter, er, more accuratelythe stampeding footfalls—of vacationing students come hurtling through the library doors.

→ Learn more about the Children's Library and the Teen Zone ←

But we've got this, nbd. We're pros at setting up memory-making fun for summer vacationers and thrusting exactly the correct books in their direction before that old siren song of summer ("I'm booorrrreeeddd!") erupts from their lips. We’re ready for you, Lawrence kids.

You've been served

Students at Billy Mills Middle School (formerly South) already have a head start. They've been challenged to a good, old-fashioned reading challenge. And the word is that all public middle school students in town are in on the competition.

A couple weeks ago, when summer seemed innocuously distant, Erica Segraves, LPL’s teen librarian, and Jennifer Scotten, Billy Mills’ librarian, talked about their mutual obsession—compelling tweens and teens to read through any means necessary—during one of the many school support visits Erica and Vanessa Reynaga and other library staff carry on throughout the school year.

“The library is here, and the kids know them,” says Billy Mills Principal, Dr. Keith Jones. “So when they go down to the library, there’s a recognition - a moment of ‘Hey, I know you!’ and so the students feel welcome there.”

Scotten, Jones, and Segraves theorized that, if the public library and the middle school libraries joined forces to amp kids up about Summer Reading, they could arrive back at school and hit the ground running this fall.

Educators and librarians stand united against the “summer slide” - a phenomenon that robs school children of proficiency at the skills they’ve learned during the school year if they don’t get served with generous portions of brain food during the summer months. It turns out that reading and attending learning-centered programming at the library helps with retention on all subjects, not just reading and writing. 

“What’s really at the heart of it is parent and student interaction,” says Jones.

Jones caught whiff of the idea hatched between librarians, and passed it on to Mr. Davis, the Tech Team leader. The Tech Team summoned 12+ members into action. In no time, Dr. Jones and Jennifer Scotten issued an enthusiastic video message directed at incoming and future middle schoolers across the city to take part in the library’s Summer Reading program. There are free Cougar Bucks involved at Billy Mills, and a reputedly gigantic trophy in it if the school wins.

Word got around that West, Central, and Southwest principals weren’t even going to consider backing down. 

How to get cracking at Summer Reading

click here for summer reading program

To Jennifer Scotten, Dr. Keith Jones, the Tech Team, and all the students at Billy Mills, the staff of LPL is cheering you on for upping the ante on completing our Summer Reading program.

Parental units, take the baton. Hit the pavement. Get down here! Bring a couple tote bags, too, you’re gonna need them. It's time to fill a vacuum in those developing brains with all the nutritious words you can summon from the stacks of the Lawrence Public Library. 

Be a role model and pick up some books of your own while you’re at it with Book Squad or Info Services Lists galore.

Story and photos by Leah Sewell