Summer readers can win big prizes from library

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Sweet Home Public Library is trying to infect as many children as possible with the reading bug by giving away a free book to each one who pre-registers for its Summer Reading Program, which begins in July.

The library will pre-register children from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 26 and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 28. The program and registration are free.

The program also is dividing into five age groups instead of three this summer.

“What’s brought this on is the number of participants,” Library Director Leona McCann said. The program has grown large, and the new groups will break it into more manageable sessions, while the pre-registration will help with planning.

Last year, the program had 700 children and 250 adults attend during five weeks in July. During one week, more than 175 children attended.

“We have so many now, it’s easier for us to make sure everybody gets their prizes and books, awards and treats,” McCann said.

The Summer Reading Program has been operating since the 1970s, McCann said. She and the late Dyan Brown started pounding the pavement in the late 1980s to get more kids into the program.

In recent years, librarian and program coordinator Sandi Leonard has promoted the program well, McCann said.

“Sandi has picked up the slack, and Mary (Rife) until she passed (recently) was the one that would go out and do outreach to the schools.”

Leonard has taken up that responsibility too, donning her “bug-covered” hat to tell children throughout area schools about the reading program.

The main purpose for the program is to encourage children ages 0 to 18 to read, or be read to, during the summer months, McCann said. Every child who wants one will receive a free library card over the summer, even if they live outside the city limits.

During the Summer Reading Program, children track the number of hours they spend reading, or are read to. Each week, during a special program at the library, participants turn in reports on how much they have read, and they receive prizes for their efforts.

In addition, those who read the most receive special prizes. Prizes this year will include T-shirts, tickets to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, DVDs, Wildlife Safari tickets, Mp3 players and much more.

Last year, the library awarded seven bicycles to readers, McCann said. “We wanted something that would encourage and inspire and give them a goal.

“It keeps up their skills. They can lose a whole grade level during the summer if they’re not reading.”

Youngsters who read during the summer do better in the fall when they go back to school, Leonard said.

“One thing we’re doing differently is we’re doing a reading game for all ages,” she said. Once limited to children between 3 and 18, the reading part of the program will now include parents reading to their children in the ages 0 to 2 category. She stressed the importance of parents reading to their children.

Those children will receive age-appropriate prizes.

The library used to operate the program on a “shoestring,” McCann said. Now it’s up to $1,000 with donations from the Friends of the Library, and it also received a grant from the Sweet Home Community Foundation for $2,500 and a Ready to Read grant from the Oregon State Library to serve children ages 0 to 14. The Friends also provided the books for pre-registration. About 35 volunteers help put on the program.

The theme this year is “Catch the Reading Bug,” McCann said, and for the “tweens” (grades five and six) and teens it is “Metamorphosis.”

In keeping with those themes, the library staff is putting together weekly activities, stories for the little children, crafts and events for readers.

During the program, preschool through tweens will hunt the “Library Dragon,” which will be hidden in a downtown building each week. The first to spot it and tell the librarians where it is will win a prize.

The teens will participate in a treasure hunt, with prizes, including a DVD player.

A question will appear each week in The New Era, and the teen who answers it each week will win a $20 gift certificate to Wal-Mart.

Special guests will include Sarah Lynn with a presentation on things used 500 years ago that are still in use today.

Storyteller Yvonne Smith will visit from Eugene, while the Tree Commission will give a presentation on insects. Good Earth Pest Company of Corvallis will bring an insect collection, including petrified bugs.

The Sweet Home Squarenaders will put on a “Bug Ball,” and Linn-Benton Communty College instructors will teach swing and line dancing.

“Our goal is to inform and educate them and let them have lots of fun at the same time,” McCann said.

Groups include 0-2, “tots;” 3-5, preschool; kindergarten to fourth grade, juniors; grades five to six, “tweens;” and 13-19, teens.

Tots and preschool meet from 10 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday in July. Juniors meet from 10 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday in July. Tweens meet from 11 to 12 p.m. on Wednesdays, and teens meet from 1 to 2 p.m. each Wednesday.

For more information, call the library at 367-5007.