The Top Reader Walk of Fame hosted at Casey Memorial Library gave recognition to 313 children who participated in the Summer Reading Program, who spent a total of 340,050 minutes reading Saturday. 

“It’s showtime at your library!” was the theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program, which ended July 27.

The event included a red carpet photo stage, a hand-puppet theater box-office, arts and crafts, a bounce house, snacks and prizes.

Rachael Bethel, public services librarian, said that children who read over the summer retain more information learned throughout the school year, then children who do not.

“Reading engages different parts of the brain ...,” Bethel said.

Bethel said that reading improves detail retention, imagination, vocabulary and more. As a librarian, Bethel said that she reads on a daily basis and believes that children should also be reading consistently.

The summer reading program has four reading groups: pre-readers ages 0-4, children readers ages 5-12, teenager readers ages 13-18, and adult readers. During the event, one top reader from each reading group was awarded with a certificate of achievement and a prize. Bethel said that the Summer Reading Program motivates children who read by tracking how much they read and rewarding them for it.

“Let’s face it, what kid wants to read, if they think its schoolwork outside of school?” Bethel said.

Bethel said that having a separate reading room for children takes a lot of stress off parents.

“Especially here in a military library, you come in and you’ve got 40, 50, 70 Soldiers out there doing training on the computers and you have an upset toddler that starts screaming,” Bethel said. “Having a separate room, I think, is really really fantastic. A lot of libraries do not have that luxury.”

Bethel shared that many families have told her at the beginning of the summer that their child(ren) would not be able to finish out the Summer Reading Program, due to a permeant change of station, but that they would continue reading right up until their move.

“I think it’s been really, really fantastic, the number of people who’ve been absolutely determined to participate, especially given the high number of families that are PCSing,” Bethel said. “They are taking the time out of the incredibly hectic life that PCSing involves, in order to make sure that they can sit down and have reading time.”

Bethel also shared that many newly stationed families have gotten involved in the Summer Reading Program.

Natasha Ordonio, her husband and their children, 9-year-old JT, 6–year-old Nick, and 3-year-old Alexis, recently arrived four months ago to Fort Hood. The three children participated in the Summer Reading Program. Ordonio shared that her family and she have moved a total of six times, and that at each installation, their children have participated in the Summer Reading Program.

Ordonio also said that her 9-year-old son, JT, read about three to five books a week, because he wanted to compete.

“I think it’s been motivating, because as soon as we found out that he could read by minutes and try to compete for top reader, he was just motivated to start reading like several hours a day,” Ordonio said. “It encouraged him to read a lot more.”

JT shared that his favorite book series, “Wings of Fire,” is about dragons and fulfilling prophecies. Ordonio explained why she believes it is important to have a Summer Reading Program for children.

“I think it helps prepare for the next school year. It increases their vocabulary and, in general, I found that when they read, they do better in all subjects,” She said.

Ordonio said that the family visits the library at least once a week.

Many parents, like Ordonio, believe that reading provides a number of benefits for their children.

Staff Sgt. Michael Goss’s 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, won the top pre-readers’ award. Goss said that his wife and him are always buying new books for their daughter. “She loves reading,” Goss said. “She’ll pull a book out of the shelf and just bring it over to us and we’ll just read it.”

Goss believes that reading to children starting at a young age improves learning and creativity.

“Imagination building,” Goss said. “I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. Just knowing that a book will take you to places you may never go.”

Goss said that for Charlotte’s age, she has a very proficient vocabulary. Goss said that currently Charlotte’s favorite characters are Elmo and the Cookie Monster from the TV show Sesame Street.

“Elmo,” Charlotte repeated.

Goss also said that reading books is often a forgotten activity.

“Advertizing a program like this that inspires people to read by a competition..,” Goss said, “It gets people to fall in love with this stuff ...”

Goss said that libraries should always be available for Soldiers and their families.