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Looking for summer reads? We've got you covered

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With July upon us, we’re at the peak of the summer reading season. If you’re still looking for that special page-turner for yourself or your kids, we’ve got some folks here to help you figure that all out.

Jamie Southern is the operations director for Bookmarks — Winston-Salem’s literary arts organization' Bookmarks runs a summer reading program for kids from pre-K through high school. The authors of some of those books will be coming here for the Bookmarks Festival of Books in September.

And Elaine Neal Orr is an author with local ties. Her latest novel, "Swimming Between Worlds," has received numerous positive reviews. One of the locations for the book is a home in the city’s West End where Elaine spent part of her childhood.

The Bookmarks Summer Reading Program is in its fourth year.

“Our goal is to keep kids interested in reading throughout the summer,” Southern says.

This year, Bookmarks has added events and things to see downtown to help kids interact with the texts, all around the theme of having fun with books.

You can see a list of titles, authors and events for the summer program here:

“What really blows me away is when a kid finds that story that connects with them,” Southern says.

Even kids who don’t consider themselves good readers can fall in love with the right story.

Diversity is a key when curating the books for the program.

“It’s important that they see themselves in the book,” she says.

Dave Pilkey, the creator of the "Captain Underpants" and "Dogman" series, is on board to be the festival’s first-ever kids keynote speaker.

Swimming Between Worlds begins and ends in Winston-Salem. It takes place during the early days of the civil rights era, with a sit-in at downtown’s Woolworth’s as a catalyst for the story.

Her parents were missionaries and she spent most of her childhood in Nigeria, but she spent her sixth-grade year here, where she attended Brunson Elementary School. She lived in a house at Jarvis Street and West End Boulevard.

“It was just a very happy year,” she says. “When I was thinking about where to set the next novel, I just decided Winston-Salem was where I wanted to be in my head.”

What kind of books make a great summer read?

Southern says she likes fun and entertainment, a little lighter than the heavier reading she does during the year. She spent one childhood recovering from a bad bicycle accident, and it was then that she discovered Beverly Cleary’s "Ramona" series.

“Those were the first chapter books that I identified with,” she says. “That for me really opened up reading for me.”

For Orr, though, it’s a time for a deep dive. A recent summer focused on "Barbarian Days," a 600-page memoir about surfing.

“You have long evenings,” she says. “Sometimes big books are great for me, because you have more light.”


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