Families crowded into the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library on a rainy Saturday to celebrate this year’s summer reading program kickoff, Librarypalooza.

Designed to highlight reading activities with scientific topics, this year’s program is a chance for students to minimize the reading loss that happens during summer vacations.

“There’s really two parts to this,” says Daniel Gitlin, information specialist at the Jefferson Parish library. “The first is the performances and activities, which bring the crowds into the library.

“The second is to combat ‘summer slide,’ ” Gitlin explains, a term used by members of the American Library Association to describe how the average student loses one month’s academic instruction during the long break.

“Fizz, Boom, READ” is this summer’s program for children ages 0-12, and “Spark a Reaction” is for teens ages 13 to 18.

“Regardless of the type of materials they read, summer slide is less likely to happen to kids who read more over the summer,” Gitlin said. “It doesn’t have to be a book; it can be magazines or Web pages, especially nowadays when kids have access to iPads and iPods.”

Readers, especially those who struggle, are encouraged to use alternate formats such as magazines, recorded books, graphic novels and Internet materials to engage in the program.

The summer reading program runs through July 31. All library branches have planned events including storytelling; visits from the Audubon Nature Institute’s Zoomobile, Bugmobile, Wetlands Express and AquaVan; and performances by magicians Irwin Royes and Glen Ghiradi. Kids and teens earn prizes as they log their reading hours.

According to Gitlin, reading loss over the summer is cumulative. Kids don’t catch up in the fall because other students continue moving ahead with skills. By the end of sixth grade, kids who don’t read during summer vacation are two years behind their classmates in reading skills, and by ninth grade, there is a significant reading ability gap of students who read during summer break and students who don’t that affects their high school academic performance.

Last year, approximately 7,000 children and teens participated in the program, a number Gitlin expects to see grow this year.

Access summer reading information, including the performance schedules and student logs, at www.jplibrary.net/srp or email Chris Smith at wcsmith@jefferson.lib.la.us or call (504) 889-8143.