KDL Summer Reading Program opens doors and possibilities

Alesha (left) and Melissa Steele stay active during Summer Reading Month
Alesha (left) and Melissa Steele stay active during Summer Reading Month

Thirteen-year-old Alesha Steele’s passion for reading not only allowed her to discover new places from the pages of books, but the opportunity to explore her own neighborhood by winning a bike. Now she hopes to help someone else discover a passion for reading as a volunteer for the Kent District Library Summer Reading Program.


Throughout the summer, the Kent District Library hosts the most popular reading program of any public library system in Michigan. The program had more than 33,000 participants last year and engages kids, teens and adults with reading activities and prizes.


“This is my third year volunteering with the library,” said Alesha. “My first two years I volunteered over in Grandville and now I’m helping out at the Richard L. Root Branch in Kentwood. I help people sign up and I hand out prizes.”


While some kids spend the summer months buried in technology, that’s never been the case for Alesha and her 11-year-old sister Melissa, who has her own affinity for books with animals, especially wolves. For both girls, unlocking a new adventure, a new world, is as simple as turning the page.


“You can go somewhere in a book, somewhere that isn’t here,” explains Alesha. “It’s always different and exciting.”


Melissa is quick to chime in, “You feel like you’re in the world.”


Another thing both girls agree on, it’s more satisfying turning a physical page than an electronic one.


“We both like real books instead of reading on a Kindle,” said Alesha. “There’s something about being able to actually turn the page and see when you’re getting to the end of the book. The electronic books don’t have that same feel.”


Both girls have been traveling to different worlds since they could understand and comprehend how letters make up words, words that become powerful when paired together. The girls gained their love for reading from their mother, Jessica, who has encouraged reading be a staple in her kids’ lives. Jessica home schools all four of her children – Alesha and Melissa are the oldest – and has stressed the benefits of reading.


“Reading has always been a big part of my life,” said Jessica. “The benefits of reading are limitless and it broadens vocabulary.”


Kentwood LibraryWith those benefits in mind, Jessica and her daughters keep active in the KDL Summer Reading Program. The program is aimed at keeping kids’ minds fresh throughout the summer months. Studies show that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer vacation. The KDL Summer Reading Program encourages learning while children and teens are away from school.


However, knowing the benefits of reading and having a dedicated and encouraging family and library doesn’t necessarily mean the love for reading is going to be a smooth ride.


“I used to hate reading,” said Melissa before sharply transitioning, “but now I love it! It helped that I continued to read and that made me become a better reader. The more I read, the easier it was, and it made me realize that I love reading.”


Reading has not only taken Alesha and Melissa to new worlds, but it has better prepared them for this one.


The KDL Summer Reading Program runs through August 13. Get started now, it’s not too late!