By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published May 26, 2012 at 5:44 AM

Summer is a lot of fun for most kids, but it can also lead to "brain drain" if the two-month break involves too much television and / or video games. The Milwaukee Public Library's Super Reader summer reading program is one way to keep kids motivated to learn and adds an exciting, educational element to their vacation.

Super Reader sign-up is going on now and the program runs through Aug. 30. A library card is not required to join, but cards are available for free to children who can write their own names. The program does not require parental permission, so adults can bring in neighbors, nieces, nephews or friends to sign up for the program.

"The best part of the reading program is the children get to read for fun. They can pick what interests them, as there is no assigned reading. So not only is this helping them to become a better reader, it's also a very enjoyable activity," says Kelly Hughbanks, youth services coordinator for the Milwaukee Public Library.

This year, anyone who signs up for the program automatically receives a Super Reader yard sign. In previous years, the sign was earned after a certain amount of reading. The program is still incentive based, meaning kids keep track of how much they read and win prizes after various amounts of reading time.

Prizes are redeemed at the library and include coupons for free items / admission or reduced rates to Cousins, Pizza Hut, Betty Brinn Children's Museum, Daniel M. Soref Planetarium, Discovery World, First Stage Children's Theater, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee's Festival City Symphony, Pettit National Ice Center and Wisconsin State Fair.

Participants also receive a free backpack.

The program kicked off on May 14. More than 2,500 kids have registered for Super Reader already, which is a 15 percent increase over last year.

Adult involvement is integral to a kid's success in the Super Reader program. Kids need reminders / help keeping track of their reading time and some need suggestions for books to read. They also might need to be gently reminded to read and given the time and space to do so.

Also, adults should talk about reading with the young people in their lives. Ask their kids, and other kids, what they're reading and if they've signed up for the program. Tell them about the books they loved at their age and congratulate kids with Super Reader backpacks or yard signs.

Erin Richardson has two sons who have been in the Super Reader program for four years. She says, originally, she was leery of the program but it turned out to be a great experience.

"I wasn't sure I liked the idea of awarding kids prizes for reading. I think reading should be a reward in and of itself," says Richardson. "However, I liked that it brought us into the library so often throughout the summer and I do think my kids read more when they are in the program."

Many participating families go to the library on a weekly basis during the summer to show the librarians their progress and to collect prizes.

It's possible that students who do not read regularly lose two to three months in reading skills learned in the previous school year, and that the loss can be cumulative, leaving some kids years behind as they get older.

Plus, some researchers estimate 50 to 70 percent of the achievement gap for children living in poverty is the result of summer learning loss. Summer reading programs can help offset this loss because studies also indicate students who read recreationally out-perform those who don't.

"Reading just 15 minutes most days over the summer is the best way to retain or even increase a child's reading skills," says Hughbanks.

There are 13 public libraries in Milwaukee, all of which offer many free programs that, like The Super Reader program, tie into the library's mission.

"The library is making a concerted effort to create an excitement about reading to get all people engaged in reading and talking about what they are reading. This is part of our plan to create a city of readers," says Hughbanks.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.