As my youngest niece prepared to head back to school this week, albeit virtually, I asked her if she was looking forward to the return. Her answer, predictably: “I wish I could have more summer vacation!”

I am sure we can all relate to that sentiment, which is one of the reasons that I found the book Swashby and the Sea so appealing. The book evokes memories of a summertime spent soaking up the sun and sea breeze.

Whether the solitude of a quiet beachfront escape is the ideal or rather a carefree, sunny summer spent frolicking at the beach with family, Swashby and the Sea transports readers there. The book also reminds us, especially during a time of social distancing, that “neighbors could be fun, and friends, and…family” — and that our idea of paradise can be so much more expansive if we are open to the possibilities.

The book’s title character, Captain Swashby, “has lived his life in the sea, by the sea, and with the sea, his oldest friend.” He loves the peace and quiet of retired life at his small seaside home. But when new neighbors move in, Swashby battens down the hatches, determined to avoid them and defend his reclusive ways. He declares that he doesn’t need or want neighbors. His old friend the sea, who knows him better than any, has other plans for the curmudgeonly captain, though.

This lovely tale is written by Beth Ferry and beautifully illustrated by Scottsdale resident Juana Martinez-Neal. The book would be right at home on a back-to-school list for younger readers…and may help that summer vacation vibe linger just a little while longer.

Swashby and the Sea is available at bookstores now, including local independent Changing Hands Bookstore (in Phoenix and Tempe). Or, check out Phoenix Public Library for availability. |CST

Kathryn M. Miller is editor-in chief at CITYSunTimes. @katsmeowaz

Imagine Your Story: Maricopa County 2020 Summer Reading Program

Homes across the country transformed into classrooms as students left their schools two months before the traditional summer break this year. Now, as the weather warms and the official academic year has come to an end, many worry the impact of the “Summer Slide” — the learning loss experienced while transitioning between school years — may be steeper than normal.

Maricopa County officials are encouraging residents — especially young readers — to continue their at-home learning and reduce the “Summer Slide” by including the County’s annual summer reading program into their summer plans. The online platform encourages reading all summer long, while earning great prizes and participating in fun challenges all from the comfort of home at read20az.com (English) or leepor20az.com (Spanish).

More than 60 libraries across Maricopa County participate in the summer reading program, in which people can log their reading online, complete challenges, and attend virtual performances to win prizes.

“Our summer reading program is not only fun, but it is also one of the County’s major community literacy efforts,” said Cindy Kolaczynski, Maricopa County Library District director and County librarian. “Summer reading keeps literacy and comprehension skills sharp through challenges and experiences that spark excitement about learning and reading.”

This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story” and encourages readers of all ages to read 20 minutes a day. Participants earn one point per minute for reading physical or electronic books (including graphic novels) or listening to audiobooks. Additional points are earned for attending virtual programs and completing online challenges.

Prizes include a free personal pizza from Peter Piper Pizza, free lemonade from Raising Cane’s, and an Arizona State Park pass. Grand Prize drawings will also take place at each participating library for the chance to win family passes to Legoland Discovery Center/Sea Life Aquarium. Readers who achieve 1,000 points can choose a free book for their home library or can donate it to a local Head Start classroom. Last year, Head Start classrooms in Maricopa County received more than 1,500 books thanks to the generosity of summer readers.

The program runs through Aug. 1. Participating North Valley libraries include Desert Foothills Library, Phoenix Public Library and Scottsdale Public Library.

Library Summer Reading Program Blasts Off June 1

Maricopa County officials are encouraging residents — particularly young readers — to include summer reading in their vacation plans. More than 60 libraries across Maricopa County participate, so people of all ages can log their reading online, complete challenges, and attend library events to win prizes.

Beginning June 1, participants can start logging their summer reading activities for food rewards at Peter Piper Pizza and Rubio’s Coastal Grill. People who log 1,000 points can choose a free book from an online marketplace, while supplies last. Participants can earn one point per minute for reading physical or electronic books (including graphic novels), listening to audiobooks, and also for attending library events, completing online challenges and participating in community experiences.

“Summer is the perfect time to read for fun,” said Bill Gates, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, District 3. “There is something for everyone in the Summer Reading Program, including dozens of community experiences and our digital catalog. Now you can download and use electronic books and audiobooks to earn your points and complete the Summer Reading Program Challenge.”

“It’s easy to participate: read 20 minutes a day, log your time and enter into a weekly drawing to win prizes,” said Cindy Kolaczynski, Maricopa County Library District Director and County Librarian. “Our libraries do so much more than lend books. They provide early learning programs to children and their families and are centers of community engagement, especially in the hot summer months.”

This year’s theme is A Universe of Stories, which encourages participants to explore outer space and exercise their minds by reading at least 20 minutes a day. Participants can earn online badges to keep a healthy competition with family and friends.

“Our summer reading program is fun, but it is also one of the County’s major community literacy efforts,” Kolaczynski continued. “We love helping kids maintain literacy skills during the summer through games and experiences that create excitement around reading.”

The program runs through August 1 in more than 60 public, tribal, and military libraries throughout Maricopa County. For more information about the program, events, and to register, visit read20az.com.


Summertime…And The Forgettin’ Is Easy


Click to learn more about Rabbi Kravitz

By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –


This is the cry of school kids from Kindergarten through college. The expectation that the summer vacation frees them from studying, from learning, from reading, from following current events, for them is real. However, in reality, summertime should be an opportunity to study, learn, read and better understanding the world — without the pressures of tests or teachers’ frightening glares.

Forgetting is easy. Too easy.

Spending a full summer just ‘chillin out’ as some call it, is a full summer wasted. Reading is critical for everybody, in whatever language(s) one reads. From the youngest to the more mature, keeping the grey matter active is critical and smart.

Now I know you are hearing from your children, “but it’s summertime!” Yup, it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. But the world does not stop because it is summer in this part of the globe.

Use the months of summer to bolster readiness for next semester. Take an active part in learning during summer. Try exploring something enjoyable that is not part of the curriculum. Use the computers at the public library. Visit the state capitol museum. Travel a little north to find out about the different flora and fauna of Arizona. Take a walk — not a ride — and listen to the sounds of the world around you. Try to understand a hummingbird. Hear leaves whispering. None of these costs anything, and the impact could be seriously overwhelming.

During summer, don’t let the mind stagnate. Watch the news programs, and analyze their differences. Listen to radio news, and hear what others across the globe sound like. Find a Study-Buddy, and explore a museum, play softball, create a new dessert for the family supper. But don’t waste this summer! Read, learn, explore…and have fun!

I remember having to write annually about “what I did during my summer vacation.” The fall editorial adventure, trying to make summer look good to others, and trying to make myself feel good for having wasted so much time.

Doesn’t have to be…

Video games have a purpose, but not at the expense of picking up a daily newspaper or a topic-friendly book. Let the youngsters rest their thumbs for a little while. Motivate their body’s senses to take in the sights and sounds only available in summer. Capture special moments. Challenge the season to give its special opportunities, and have fun doing it.

For many, summer is 10 week long; two and a half months. Plan a calendar that allows for “down-time” and fun-time, and learning time. Don’t fritter away the potential joy of finding something new, visiting an extraordinary venue or helping around the house.

Ahhhh summertime. Use it wisely and energize the mind. Keep active, and enjoy the schedule change.

Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Photo credit: KOMUnews via Foter.com / CC BY
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