The wonders of summer and the joys of reading have been sharing center stage for many Lexington 4 students and their families.

And on Thursday, close to 500 hundred members of the Swansea community turned out at the district’s Early Childhood Center for a carnival-styled gathering designed to celebrate and promote reading.

“The goal is to keep kids reading through the summer,” district spokeswoman Lisa Ingram said of the event that was launched two years ago and has grown in popularity each year.

The proof of that popularity was vividly on display Thursday evening as a long line formed at the doors well before the 5 p.m. kickoff.

“They were here at 4:15,” Ingram said.

Awaiting them inside were various games, booths, tables, presentations and displays – all targeted to reading.

“This is just a way to celebrate the reading that has taken place throughout the summer,” Ingram said.

The celebration is among many efforts undertaken in Lexington 4 and other school districts to prevent what is known as the “summer slide.” That’s when young minds are not challenged for three months, and national education experts believe that children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement.

Mary Beth Thomas, an academic coach at Sandhills Elementary, said the scope of the district’s outreach is not limited to students.

“Our goal is to build not just students who are readers but a whole community,” she said.

Members of the Lexington 4 family – including Swansea High School cheerleaders, band members and football players – were joined Thursday by others in the community including churches, civic groups and representatives from law enforcement, banks and other businesses.

Ronda Rosebury, who teaches in the district and whose daughter, Chloe, is in the district’s 4-year-old program, said setting such examples is crucial.

“We can’t get out of our bedtime (with her) without three or four books a night,” Rosebury said. “Reading is a part of our everyday life. To be successful, you have to read.”

Hunter Bolen will buy that. The rising Sandhills Elementary School fourth-grader said he loves practically “everything” about reading and appeared pleasantly overwhelmed by much of Thursday’s activities.

“I even see some of my friends here,” he said.

Dallas McDaniel, who also goes to Sandhills, took advantage of the free book table to pick up one for herself and another – about dogs –for her younger brother.

“He really loves dogs,” she said.

Thomas described Thursday’s pep rally of sorts as a fitting way to encourage the regular practice of reading.

“We know that the summer reading is so important to what we do during the year, so what better way to celebrate.”

About Bertram Rantin

Bertram Rantin

@bertramrantin

Bertram Rantin is The State's metro columnist with a current focus on the inspirational people and community helpers in Columbia, SC, and the Midlands. Rantin has covered a variety of areas during his tenure at the newspaper including local government, schools, sports, features, transportation, volunteerism and non profits. Email Bertram at brantin@thestate.com or call him at (803) 771-8306.

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