When it comes to reading words, the news in the numbers.

That’s particularly true of students during the summer months, experts say.

“Summer slide,” the term used for achievement loss that can happen when younger children are not reading regularly, can be mitigated by reading as few as four or five books while school is out.

According to American Libraries magazine, 95% of libraries offer summer reading programs, according to the American Library Association, and that’s true in the Walla Walla Valley.

At the Walla Walla Public Library, 238 E. Alder St., kids of all ages can “Get Out and Read!” this summer with outdoor-focused programs. The season launches Saturday, June 12, with a “Blast Off to Summer Reading” Zoom party from 10-11 a.m. and invitation to sign up for summer reading challenges on the library’s Beanstack Tracker app.

The app is free and accessible from phones and desktop browsers, allowing families to track reading, earn badges, share written and video book reviews, see what friends are reading and more.

Go to ubne.ws/summerreadingprogram to join when the link is posted Friday. There will be music, stories, crafts and summer reading inspiration. Be sure to pick up an activity bag Friday, June 11, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at curbside pickup.

June’s open-air programs continue with a character mural scavenger hunt through city parks June 21-25. The Walla Walla Public Art Walking Tour on June 29 features a custom Walla Walla public art coloring book, in collaboration with ArtWalla.

After completing their summer reading challenge, kids can choose a free new book, then keep going with Beanstack reading challenges throughout the year. Accounts never expire and challenges are tailored to the age of each child.

For children 0-5 years old, Walla Walla Public Library hosts “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” also on the Beanstack Tracker app. Families can access the welcome letter and download the app, then get started right away. Kids receive a new book to keep at registration, along with other prizes and virtual badges as they log titles; being read to or listening to books also counts.

“Babytime” for children age 0-3 and “Early Learners Storytime” for preschoolers will continue throughout the summer every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., live on Walla Walla Public Library’s Facebook page.

Dayton Memorial Library, 111 S. Third St., 509-382-4131, has begun registration for “Tails and Tales,” designed for all ages and featuring storytelling, music, virtual programs about animals, crafts and more. Prizes will be handed out for reading and for event participation. Details are still being worked out, but younger readers will meet every other Wednesday and older elementary children will gather every other Thursday.

Special events for teens and adults are in the works. The program goes through Aug. 6, ending with a “Story Stroll” and a final prize drawing.

At Athena Public Library, 418 E Main St., the theme for this summer is “Reading Colors Your World.”

Staff plans to have opportunities for readers of all ages, and most activities will be in outdoor spaces.

On Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. there is story time and art for preschoolers and younger elementary students at Athena City Park on Third Street.

Beginning June 17 at 10:30 a.m., Art in the (city) Park with artist Jacque Capps will be targeted for elementary and younger middle school students; accompanied younger readers are welcome.

Sixth- to 11th-graders are invited to sign up for a summer library subscription box. Subscribers will receive a box in June, July and August, each containing books, challenges and fun surprises. Teens will have an opportunity to earn points throughout the summer and those who earn enough points will be invited to attend a Library Lock-In at the end of the summer.

The Milton-Freewater Public Library, 8 S.W. Eighth Ave., is also using “Reading Colors Your World,” beginning Friday, June 11, and lasting nine weeks.

The program is open to ages 0-13 years old. Informational booklets with reading logs will be handed out at the library starting Friday, and at Milton-Freewater Unified School District lunch bus sites, starting the week of June 14.

Reading program prizes will include gift cards to Inland Octopus, a National Geographic crystal growing kit and a Lego set.

Story time for preschoolers up to age 6 will be on the front lawn of the library on Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. Craft bags and free books will be distributed there and at lunch bus sites.

At Weston Public Library, 108 E. Main St., Fridays will mean programs at the Elliot Memorial Park on South Water Street.

At 1 p.m. on June 11, 18, 25, and July 9 and 16, children are welcome to participate in “Reading Colors Your World” activities, including art projects. Registration is not necessary, but preschoolers must be accompanied by an older sibling or adult helper.

Kids can pick up a reading log at the library to fill out during the summer, then turn them in for a chance at prizes. All participants will also receive an art kit.

For information on summer reading programs at other area libraries, contact the following:

  • , 875 Lake Road, 509-545-6549.

College Place Library, 1605 S.E. Meadowbrook Blvd., No. 7, 509-540-3418.

  • P
    • , 103 D St., 509-849-2411.
    • , 161 Hanson Rd., 509-394-2329.

    Waitsburg — Weller Public Library, 212 Main St., 509-337-8149.

    Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

    Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.