From late June to early August, students at Hallman Elementary get the chance on Tuesday mornings to participate in the school’s Summer Library Program.

The youngsters don’t just checkout books and go home. Instead, they get to do crafts and activities, along with enjoying snacks. Catholic Community Services of Salem is providing grant money to support this program.

Hallman’s Summer Reading Program was started last summer by fifth-grade teacher Krystal Bowman. This year, her colleague Jessica Hoffmeister, also a fifth-grade teacher at Hallman, is helping out too.

Today, the students got a special treat when two members of the Portland Timbers U23 soccer team—goal keeper Mario Sequeira and midfielder Simon Fitch—along with Media Director Joanna Fields, dropped by to encourage the kids. The players signed autographs, gave out team memorabilia, and held a raffle. Two lucky students won autographed soccer balls and tickets to an upcoming Timbers game.

Hallman students are challenged to read 100 minutes per week. If they read a total of 400 minutes over the summer, they get to attend an End of the Summer Reading Celebration on August 9.

“At the start of the school in the fall, it’s evident which students have been reading during the summer and which students haven’t,” said Hallman Principal Jessica Brenden. “Those who attend our program or read on their own actually show growth at the end of the summer, while those who don’t read can actually take a step backwards.”