A new summer reading program is being offered for the first time to Wyoming County high school students.

The "Summer Book Club" will be available to Westside High School and Wyoming East High School students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 9 through Aug. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The goal is to encourage students to read during the summer months while they are not in school. A teacher will be available at each of the schools to facilitate the reading activities.

The book club is also an opportunity to provide a hot lunch for students who may need it.

According to Keith Stewart, principal of Westside High School, the book club provides an outlet for students to stay on track in their reading or even increase their reading and prepare for assignments they may be given in class. For example, Stewart noted, students who plan to take AP or Dual Credit English courses in the fall may have been given summer reading suggestions by their AP teachers.

"Those students may come to the school to read and prepare for their classes, and they will have access to a teacher who can provide additional insight or discussion related to the selections they are reading," Stewart said. "That teacher could also offer to make contact with the actual teacher they will be working with when school comes back in to answer any questions or concerns the students may have."

Those who participate in the book club will have access to books for free. There will be no fees or library checkout requirements.

"Students may also choose to read selections together for a more enhanced reading experience. This will provide them a chance to talk about their books as they read throughout the chapters," Stewart said.

Stewart said students who read consistently make better grades in school, express themselves better in written form, and their verbal communication abilities are stronger.

"The SAT and ACT college entrance exams are heavy in their analysis of reading and writing abilities," Stewart said. We feel that this can only serve to help our Wyoming County students advance in all those areas."

"It is a proven fact that students can lose reading/language arts knowledge if they don't remain active readers during the summer. Our goal is to not only bridge that gap, but to also foster the love for reading among high school-aged students."

Amanda Hylton, principal of Wyoming East High School, added that in addition to helping students build their reading skills, she feels one of the best benefits of the program is that it provides an opportunity for the students to read and discuss for enjoyment.