Reading efforts spotlight value of summer reading.

Learning doesn't have to end when students are out of school for the summer.

It's an ideal time for many youngsters to read and not just books in traditional hard- and soft-cover form, but also those available on digital devices.

Garden City USD 457 has acknowledged as much in a summer digital book program that's free of charge for local families.

The program matches students' interests and reading levels to recommended digital books, which may be downloaded onto a computer or mobile device with an Internet connection.

Youngsters and their families also can take advantage of good reading programs at their local library.

The Finney County Public Library, for example, makes the experience educational and entertaining for all ages by incorporating movies, games and story times into the reading experience.

Families also may add to the summer reading effort by taking books along on vacations. Children who see their parents read are more likely to do the same.

All such efforts help to combat what's known as brain drain, the learning losses that occur when students don't engage in educational activities during the summer.

Studies show low-income youth often experience even more of a loss. Good summer programs promise to close the achievement gap between lower- and upper-income students.

The challenge is in keeping kids interested in learning in a world in which music on iPods, video games and social networking sites steal their attention. Educators have to be creative in encouraging students to stay on track to include incorporating those technologies into the learning process.

Digital reading programs should help grab and keep students' attention. Such innovative strategies in place in Garden City public schools and beyond help at a time educators work to stay on the cutting edge of technology available to their pupils.

As society changes, the importance of reading a book should continue to receive the high priority worthy of a fundamental tool all students need to succeed.

The good news is that whether they're reading for entertainment or as part of the learning process, youngsters have more choices than ever before in print and digital form.