BALTIMORE  (WJZ)– Summer book lists are about to grow as the city kicks off its annual summer reading program.

Gigi Barnett explains how a boost in reading when school is out can help students when they go back in the fall.

Baltimore’s 2012 summer reading program has just begun.  The youngest readers have their favorites already picked out.

“My book is the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff,'” said Avery Gilliam, kindergarten reader.

The program challenges children, teens and adults to read as many books as they can over the summer.

The winners in the three age groups receive a prize.  Awards include everything from Orioles tickets to a special celebration at the National Aquarium.

The library is offering suggestions on what to read.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says Baltimore really is the city that reads.

“The kids are waving their pom poms looking for some books today,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The library says it’s not all just for fun. Increased reading over the summer helps students retain what they learned in school.

“Studies have shown and research has really verified this, that you can have what is called a ‘summer-slide,'” said Dr. Carla Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. “You can lose.”

Hayden heads the Enoch Pratt Free Library.  She says parents should challenge kids to read the tough books.

“One of my eight books has to be a chapter book,” one kindergarten reader said. “I have to read a chapter book, uh oh!”

Last year more than 16,000 children signed up for the program and they read more than 220,000 books.  This year the goal is to crush those numbers.

“We hope to get to 20,000, and maybe as many as half a million books read,” Hayden said. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

The summer reading program ends on Aug. 4.

The city’s summer reading program is more than 80 years old.


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