EVART — Along with a free lunch each day this summer, Evart children can add a heaping portion of books available to them to read.

With a continued focus on reading for all ages, children participating in Evart Public Schools' summer feeding program, which provides free, healthy lunches to children up to age 18, also will be able to read or check-out books from the school library, said Aaron Wetter, Title 1 teacher at Evart Elementary School.

“Research has shown providing a few books over to the summer to kids helps reduce the reading loss they experience,” he said.

Wetters, and Mecosta Osceola Personnel Cooperative Early Literacy Coordinator Jennifer Rounds, who has instituted the Evart Reads Program, are working together to stress the importance of reading throughout the summer.

Evart Reads is an initiative to expand reading in the community through a partnership between Evart Public Schools, the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District and the City of Evart. The goal is to have a community where everyone can read, books are easily accessible and reading is part of every day life.

When school lets out for the year, the summer feeding program will be at the elementary, Wetters said.

"Our library is going to have some work being done on it, but we're going to have the books brought down to the gym/cafeteria where the kids will eat," he said. "They will be able to check out books right from there."

Wetters said books, such as novels, also will be brought from the middle school for the older kids.

"You can hand a book to a child to read but if they aren't interested in it, they won't read it," Wetter said. "It has to be a book they select."

The focus is to get books in the hands of children, Wetters said.

"I'm sort of piggy-backing this on (Rounds') program," he said. "I'm working on a lot of ways to make this really exciting for the kids."

Wetters said he's looking at having Free Book Friday, when kids will be able to choose a book after the finish eating lunch.

"I want to have something like Lollipops at the Little Libraries," he said.

Wetters hopes it encourages the children to continue reading.

"We have a superintendent who is really excited about this program," he said. "The board of education has provided funding to make it something with incentives, all to keep kids reading."

The summer feeding program will take place form noon to 1 p.m. each weekday throughout the summer. However, the program will be closed the week of the Fourth of July, Wetters said.