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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"A great gift"

ALBANY, July 9 -- The late Dr. Carl Sagan, the popular American scientist and Cornell
University professor of astronomy and space sciences, once said, “One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”

Dr. Sagan’s wisdom can easily be expanded to include “and to encourage children to read.”

Numerous studies over decades of prominent research have made it clear: children who engage in summer reading make greater academic gains than children who do not. Many of the research findings on the so-called “summer slide” jump off the page. Consider:

> students can lose up to 25 percent of their reading level over the summer;
> a conservative estimate for lost instructional time (for children who don’t read during the summer) is approximately two months, or roughly 22% of the school year; and
> by the end of 6th grade, children who lose reading skills during the summer are on average two years behind their peers.

At its most basic level, summarizing the range of research on the importance of summer reading for students can be stated as simply as this: “More access to books means more reading.” In other words, it’s about getting books into the hands of children. The underlying importance of access, of course, points directly to the critical role played by our public libraries to encourage students and their families to read, and as the gateway for making books and other reading materials and programs available throughout our communities.

The importance of summer reading can’t be understated. That’s exactly why my Senate colleagues and I are so grateful this summer to have the opportunity to team up with the New York State Library and public libraries statewide, including many I represent throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, to promote a new, online summer reading program we’re sponsoring called “Dream Big. READ!”

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. stressed the fact that summer reading programs enable young people to maintain educational advances when not in school.

“Summer reading programs provided at public libraries throughout the state – supported by the State Library in conjunction with our partners in the State Assembly and Senate – give children great tools to stay academically sharp for school in the fall,” the commissioner said. Additional information on the importance of summer reading can be found at:

So throughout July and August, I’m glad to join so many local public libraries and other groups and organizations seeking to encourage summer reading. The Senate’s online summer reading program offers a convenient opportunity for students and their parents to enjoy the benefits and the rewards of summer reading together. Our region is incredibly fortunate to have such an outstanding network of public libraries providing access to books and other reading activities, materials and opportunities.

To participate in the Senate’s online program, students and parents can visit my Senate website,, and click on the “Dream Big. READ!” logo in the left-hand column of the home page. Among other features, the site includes a recording journal, opportunities to share
books with other family members and friends, and a series of popular summer reading lists. At the end of the program, participants will receive a formal recognition for their reading achievement.

According to New York State Library officials, last year’s summer reading program featured the participation of 1.65 million young people statewide. The State Library’s program coordinators hope that a revitalized partnership with the state Legislature and local libraries will lead to increased attention on the benefits of summer reading and result in expanded participation this year. Keep in mind that a variety of summer reading activities and events are taking place at local libraries across the region. Visit the website of the Southern Tier Library System,, for links to member libraries in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties. The members of the Finger Lakes Library System, including Tompkins County, can be found online at

Here’s to a summer that includes reading!

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869