Editor’s note: This is a new weekly column that Audrey Clark, who works at the Fincastle Library, will author. Every week, the column will provide readers with insight into the happenings of the four county libraries.

When I was a child, the Botetourt County Libraries’ Summer Reading Program was one of the things I’d look most forward to each summer. Being slightly competitive, I’d beg my mother to take me to pick up a reading log as soon as possible, then I’d make a bee-line toward the children’s nonfiction section where I’d load up on books about things like dogs, science, nature, and how to host the perfect slumber party.

There were weekly events back then, too. In the days before the Fincastle Library’s meeting room was built, we’d meet Ms. Jackie across the street at the Masonic Lodge. The programs hosted there were led by volunteers, from storytellers to musicians to magicians. My favorite was a clown who made balloon animals. He sent me home with a little green Dachshund that I cherished for much longer than you’d expect such a thing to last.

The Summer Reading Program has changed a bit throughout the years, but much has remained the same. The goal of the Summer Reading Program has always been to prevent “summer slide,” a phenomenon where children who don’t read over summer break can lose two to three months of reading development. This can add up quickly. By fifth grade, they’re already two years behind their classmates. On the other hand, children who read a lot for fun during summer can find themselves one month ahead of their peers when they return to school. At the Botetourt County Libraries, we level the playing field by offering fun incentives to read during the crucial summer months.

Readers of all ages can pick up a reading log and read anything of their choice for a chance to win prizes. Prizes are given in three age divisions: children, teens, and adults. Prizes include gift certificates to local restaurants, Salem Red Sox tickets, a trinket from the treasure chest, free books, and much more! Participants can also earn chances to win grand prizes, including a one-night stay at the Red Lantern Inn in Clifton Forge (adults), a Nintendo Switch or X-box One (teens), and a digital camera/video recorder (children). In order to be eligible to win, reading logs must be turned in by July 31.

Summer may be halfway over, but there are still plenty of Summer Reading events to participate in before the end of the month. This week, each library will be hosting its own event. We’re looking forward to a day of tie-dye fun at Buchanan Library, a simulated archaeological dig at Fincastle Library, and a free showing of the movie “Wonder Park” and ice cream at the Blue Ridge Library. Other events this summer include the Zombie Apocalypse Escape Room, Little Critters Petting Zoo, and Magic, Music, and More with Steve Somers, the Amazing Teacher.

The theme of this year’s Summer Reading Program is “It’s Showtime at Your Library!” Sticking with that theme, the Fincastle Library will host a talent show for children in grades K-12 on Monday, July 22. Please call the Fincastle Library at 928-2700 to sign up.

For more information on the Summer Reading Program or any of these events, please follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/botetourtlibraries.

~ Audrey Clark