Kids get incentives for reading

Library offers prizes for students who read over summer

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— A cardboard box of toys and other gifts sit in Currie Meyer's office waiting to be rummaged through by children who are dedicating time during the summer to read.

Meyer, coordinator of this year's Summer Reading Program, said her goals are to keep children reading over the summer and to stay connected with the library.

And if she needs to coax children with toys and gifts donated by local businesses, so be it.

"I'm trying to give them an oompf, a reason for doing it," Meyer said of the program's June 11 to mid-August schedule. "How I'm going to get them in here is with prizes."

Bud Werner Memorial Library hosts a Summer Reading Program annually, separating the program into two areas: "2001: A Reading Odyssey" and "Once Upon a Time ."

At the beginning of every storytelling episode, Marybeth Cate, storyteller and renaissance woman at the library, tells the students, "One, two, three, four put your fanny on the floor. Now, how does a story begin?"

"Once upon a time!" the students yell.

"It's going to be so much fun this year because the theme is 'Once Upon a Time ,'" Cate said of the summer program.

Cate said although they are offering incentive prizes to children, reading is a reward in itself.

"If they read through the summer, they're not regressing they keep building," Cate said. "Reading is terribly, terribly important. I've taught school, so I know."

The Odyssey program provides various ways for children ages 11 to 17 years old to keep reading as a day-to-day habit.

One subprogram, Radical Readers' Raffle, provides preteens and teens to tell the library about a book they recently read and place their names in a raffle to win from the box of prizes.

"I wanted to do something unique for preteens and teens this year," Meyer said.

The Reading Odyssey Challenge, another subprogram, is a long-term program for teens who are willing to read a book from each genre (poetry, biography or nonfiction, contemporary fiction, science fiction/fantasy or horror and historical fiction) and keep track on a special bookmark.

Those who complete the bookmark by Aug. 20 receive a $10 gift certificate to Sore Saddle Cyclery or Wal-Mart.

Off the Beaten Path also encourages children readers by challenging them to read 20 minutes a day, five days a week and keep track on a special calendar. By Aug. 20-24, students who have completed their calendars can earn a $10 gift certificate to the store.

"It can be a tough age to keep kids excited about reading and learning," Meyer said of the teen-age group. "I just want them to know that we're here to support them."

Book Pals is a subprogram both for the young adults and the younger children.

Young adults pair with little ones to share 40 hours of reading time throughout the summer.

"It's not remedial in any terms. It's more to just get kids more comfortable with reading and to have someone to look up to," Meyer said.

The Summer Reading Program also provides an outlet targeted for children from kindergarten through fourth grade. Although "Once Upon a Time " also houses the Book Pals program, it provides days of stories and activities, an evening minstrel series and prizes for reading. Every Thursday afternoon, the library offers the reading of a different legend, folk tale, fairy tale or story followed by an outdoor activity.

"This year the girls will make crowns with all different colors that have curling ribbon off the back, and the boys will make shields," Meyer said of the first stories and activities day.

Juggling, storytelling and puppet shows take place every Tuesday evening throughout the summer.

And as part of another incentive program, Meyer said she's offering children to pull from her large prize box if they've kept track of the 20 minutes of reading a day.

"We want them to read whatever they're excited about. If it's a Pokemon chapter, Harry Potter for the fifth time, it doesn't matter," Meyer said.

When Meyer created the analogy to students of not brushing your teeth for three months with not reading for three months, her profound connection with the students about the importance of reading shined through.

She said the students replied, "You'd probably become a worse reader or you'd probably forget how."

"There are several studies that prove kids who read on their own do better in school," Meyer said. "If I can get books that they will read, they'll come in."

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