With a pandemic in the background, summer reading program continues through the fall

Post date: Dec 08, 2020 12:36:50 PM

The summer of 2020 saw the Wells-Ogunquit CSD’s Summer Reading Program enter its fifth year. Over time it has helped many students stay motivated to read throughout the long summer months. However, this year, with a pandemic altering school routine and normalcy, its function and importance has expanded. Instead of ending in early September, it has continued into the fall of this unusual year.

The reading incentive program, the idea of WOCSD Superintendent Jim Daly, began modestly at Wells Junior High School in 2016 under the direction of WJHS Librarian Lynn Mercier. It has since expanded to reach into all of the District's schools. Normally, as summer recess approaches, students are able to select two books that they want to read for the summer. These books are from a wide selection of new paperbacks that they can take home and keep for free. This year, distributing two books to each student at WJHS began again in the fall and, according to Mercier, will be completed in January. Since the school’s library is now closed to students due to COVID 19, Mercier travels around the school with her book cart visiting students in each English language arts (ELS) classroom where she distributes the paperbacks.

“I think it's a tremendous opportunity to encourage reading for our kids!” commented Superintendent Daly recently. “Ms. Mercier has done an outstanding job promoting literacy throughout our district.”

Local bookseller Francine Tanguay of Annie's Book Stop in Wells has also been instrumental in the success of this reading program since its beginning. Her knowledge of books mixed with an understanding of what kids really like to read for pleasure when away from school has proved pivotal. Tanguay recommends, orders, and provides the books at a discount. She also donates many books whenever possible.

“Compiling the lists for the Summer Reading Program is a group effort between the three school librarians with special attention paid to fun reading for the students,” commented Tanguay in an email. “Given the number of students involved and (the) varied interests of the student body, the book selection ranges from picture books (for) early readers to various types of fiction and nonfiction for all age groups and abilities.”

Librarian Mercier says she finds Tanguay to be very supportive, flexible and a great mentor. “She has helped to put lots of books in students’ hands over the years,” said Mercier who added that “Francine helps us stretch our dollar!” With the exception of 2020, Tanguay estimates, that 1,000 books are now provided yearly for students.

“In this pandemic year, books are more important than ever to relieve the sense of isolation we all are experiencing but especially for our kids,” noted Tanguay. “The program is an investment in our future as a community because these kids are our future.

The principal of WJHS Josh Gould concluded, “We are thrilled to be able to put copies of books into our student's hands in a safe manner. Reading activates the imagination. During a pandemic, the imagination is a great friend!”

Caption: From left to right is Hayden Williamson, Amelia Connor, CJ Douglas and Lynn Mercier.

Caption: From left to right is Ben Brown (with arms crossed), Lynn Mercier, Emmett Gagne and Devyn Woodman.