Be A Storybook Hero

Summer Reading Reduces Summer Slump for Kids and Teens

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

A good novel starts off by setting the scene. Where are we? Who are the main characters? What time period is this?

Before long, the dilemma of the novel presents itself. There may be villains and heroes. There may be obstacles along the journey. There may be a puzzle to solve.

The journey we are currently presented with is the educational journey for a child in Charlotte County. Our novel starts just before a curve in the road. As the reader, we look ahead, squinting in the sunlight, and see a gorgeous summer break on the horizon.

What the author hasn’t revealed to us yet is a dip in the road that is sometimes known as the summer slump. With all its sunshine and vacations and ice cream cones, summertime can be detrimental to a child’s educational progress.

Fortunately, keeping young minds engaged over the summer is a community challenge that several local organizations have made a priority. (Could they be the heroes of this story? Keep reading to find out!)

The YMCA of Southwest Florida and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County offer programming that makes summer learning fun and engaging.

Lynn Dorler, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs said, “We want kids to be happy, successful and motivated to learn when school resumes in August.” He added that his team is, “employing Charlotte County Public Schools Reading Recovery Teachers to provide reading enrichment programming during summer camp. Kids will work with teachers in reading and STEM programs to help maintain and improve their educational skills.”

At the YMCA of Southwest Florida, Executive Director Kristen Szych said, “We want to make sure that children in our program achieve educational success not only in the school year but throughout the summer as well.” In addition to traditional reading activities that are offered every summer, she said, “This year we will be implementing skits, theater to act out the book they are reading.”

For children who are not attending summer camp, many are already signed up for the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge and THIS BOOK IS COOL!, through the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. And for any child who isn’t already connected to a summer reading opportunity, their reading adventures are only a library card away!

Youth Librarian Ashley Guerzo is extending an invitation to kids and teens who want to dive into fun in the Oceans of Possibilities Summer Reading Program that begins in early June. She said, “Kids will track their minutes read to earn beads and build a unique nautical necklace. Teens can track their time spent reading or play book bingo to earn cool prizes as well.”

Lynn and Kristen and Ashley are true heroes in MY book!

But perhaps there is another category of heroes that YOU can be part of.

If your character is a parent or caregiver, you can be a hero by reading to the children in your life. You can be a hero by encouraging them to participate in local reading programs. You can be a hero by taking them to sign up for a library card.

If your character is a member of the Charlotte County community who has a heart for giving, you can be the hero in this story, too! Capes are not required, but volunteers are always welcome at the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs. Donations of new or gently used books or school supplies for the fall (e.g., book bags, pencils, lined paper, notebooks, etc.) are welcomed by both agencies. New books are also needed to restock Lizzie the Literacy Bus. Donations can be dropped off at the United Way of Charlotte County office at 17831 Murdock Circle, Suite A, Port Charlotte.

And it doesn’t take a magic wand to spread the word about the library’s summer reading program.

Will you join our summer story?

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at