ATWATER — It's called the summer slide.
When school is out for the summer, educators figure students lose several months' worth of learning as other pursuits capture leisure-time attention.
At Atwater's Thomas Olaeta Elementary School, the library has been open Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. all summer so parents and their children can keep up their reading.
"What's most exciting is the library fills up every week," Principal Ana Boyenga said. "This is helping kids become better learners. We don't want them to lose what they have learned. This has proven to be very successful."
Mark Ingraham, a fourth-grader this fall, has been a reader since he was in kindergarten. He read 717,395 words from June 12 through the end of July.
The 9-year-old has read all seven books in the Harry Potter series. His dad, Robin, said his son always has enjoyed reading. Before a major movie comes out, Mark wants to read the book first.
"He always loves reading and does it without encouragement," Robin Ingraham said. Reading enjoys a prominent spot in Mark's life, along with soccer, skiing and hiking.
Teresa Apodoca, a second-grade teacher at Thomas Olaeta school, said the library being open has provided a great summertime activity. She is one of the seven teachers who volunteered to watch over the library Wednesday afternoons.
"It's a great opportunity to continue reading in the summer," Apodoca said. "The kids love it, and they have a great time bringing their families to the library."
Boyenga said this is the second summer of the library being open Wednesdays and that the idea originated with staff members. About 250 children have taken advantage of the program.
As well as checking books out, students can take accelerated-reader quizzes online. If they read eight books, they are entitled to a free book at a Merced bookstore.
Sixth-grade teacher Cathy Hosmann-Mook came to the library with her children.
"It's nice to see all the students show up during their vacation," Hosmann-Mook said. "It was great; the kids were very enthusiastic doing the reading and taking the quizzes. It's neat to keep them connected."
Kindergarten teacher Carol Jueneman said the family time afforded in the library is a real benefit: The summer library hours help students set goals to continue their learning.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.