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Library Is Changing The ‘Structure Of Learning’: Programming Offers Enrichment In Cumberland

CUMBERLAND — The name of Cumberland County Public Library’s summer reading program can be deceiving.

Over the years of the program’s existence in Cumberland, student-participants have read many books, but they’ve done much, much more.

This year alone, the 80-plus students registered have created a small food drive to support the Backpacks of Love food program, worked in the Cumberland Community Garden and learned about the important role of local volunteer fire departments.

In other words, they’re reading but also serving and learning about their community.

“The purpose of our library’s summer reading program is to encourage local residents of all ages to read during the summer months,” said Jennifer Beach, the library’s director. “We also are proud to offer fun, engaging and local programs for our rural community.”

While Beach isn’t sure when the program began, she said in her four years working in Cumberland, “we have grown the program in both attendance and scope.”

This year’s program theme is “every hero has a story,” and the library has been highlighting local community heroes and the hero inside each of the students.

“The children have had a visit from a magician, the local volunteer fire department, 4-H and Backpacks of Love,” said Beach, adding that movies and other special guests have been part of the program.

As for reading, the children read for more than 1,000 hours in between learning and serving the community during the program.

“This year we have 86 children registered with roughly 30 attendees per program,” said Beach.

The involvement isn’t only pleasing to the librarian, but to parents as well.

Cumberland resident Jennifer Turner’s daughter, Peyton, has been attending the summer reading programs for three years now, and she’s seen her progress from “a toddler to a pre-reader to a confident reader.”

“We have always read together and enjoyed books … but the summer reading program takes it a step further,” said Turner. She said that Beach makes it her personal mission “to organize projects and to bring educational programs to the library to supplement the children’s reading efforts. From art to comedy and entertainment to hands-on STEM programs and wildlife and nature presentations, the participants can enjoy what may not be readily accessible to rural residents of a small town.”

Pat Allard, who’s been volunteering at the library for 12 years now, said the kids are always excited to be part of the program. “I’ve seen it grow a lot, just progressing,” said Allard, adding that when the program first started, they were lucky if eight students showed up. Now, she says it’s grown every year.

Heather King says her daughter is reading well beyond her grade level and attributes that in part to her being in the summer reading program in Cumberland.

“The summer reading program definitely closes the gap of the summer slump when it comes to reading; however, the children are exposed to so many more subject areas. They don’t even realize that all summer long they are also learning about science, math, art and more! It also gives them encouragement beyond the classroom from the community, which carries over from year to year,” King said.

She says as time passes it’s her hope that more and more parents take advantage of the “amazing program right here in our area, because not only are they few and far between, but this particular program is truly changing the structure of learning in Cumberland.”

According to Beach, the program is funded through donations from local residents and businesses and the library’s general budget.