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POB Library Ready To Kick Off Summer Reading Season

This year, children are encouraged to ‘Read for the Gold’ from June 25 through Aug. 12

As the weather heats up, children’s thoughts rapidly change from vocabulary and fractions to hitting the beach, splashing around in the pool, or just whiling away some time in the shade with a fruity popsicle. It can be hard to tear their attention away from summer fun in the sun to getting some reading done, but the staff Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library are pros at it: their innovative program, which features interaction with teen role models as well as the usual events and prizes, gets kids all over the community reading throughout the summer.

Most libraries have some kind of summer reading program for children, but the program at POB is special for several reasons. First of all, the staff at the library’s Family Center is given a lot of freedom to change and improve the program, making it a unique entity compared to others throughout New York. For example, instead of adopting this year’s statewide theme, “Dream Big READ,” the staff decided to adopt a more current “Read For The Gold” theme, based on the 2012 Olympics. In addition to making the program stand out from other cookie-cutter programs, library director Gretchen Browne says the little boys especially respond well to the Olympic theme.

The Family Center will be a very busy place this season, aside from overseeing the summer reading program. In addition to the usual full slate of programs, like Summer Pajama Storytime (July 10) and Summer Baby and Me (Aug. 8), the center has introduced a new event, Play Date @ The Library. This event gives children, from newborns to the age of 4, the run of the basement at the library, filled with toys, puzzles, puppets and games purchased with funds donated by the Friends of the Library. The children can enjoy some rare unstructured playtime while the adults get a chance to chat. The next play date will be held July 24.

Another aspect of the program that makes summer reading at POB a cut above is the presence of listeners, or teen helpers paid to listen to younger children deliver book reports and discuss books with them. For the kids, talking to a teen is often much more exciting than talking to an adult librarian.

“They form a bond with them many times, and the little ones like it, and it’s a really nice way for the older kids—the teen listeners—to have a first job,” said Browne, going on to say that the program is community-minded because in addition to encouraging kids to read, it provides teens a positive work experience.

The program isn’t entirely unique; other libraries have teen listeners available, however usually in a volunteer capacity. POB is one of the very few libraries that pays listeners for their time.

Not surprisingly, listener positions are highly sought after among area teens. Browne says that Family Center staffers interview the applicants to find the most patient, understanding candidates who will relate well to the children. These listeners are available to the children any time the library is open during the program’s duration.

The fun isn’t just limited to kids either, as 2012 will mark the second year of the library’s adult summer reading club. While the adult program is much less structured than the children’s club, there will still be prizes and an element of competition. The adult club will wrap up on Aug. 30 with a discussion (using the online chat program Skype) with Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us.

Summer reading fun officially kicks off at the 3rd Annual Summer Reading Carnival, which will be held on the library parking lot on Sunday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Based on previous years, the library expects the program to be well-attended, and there will be some new rides and games to entertain returning attendees. Those who sign up for the summer reading club before June 23 will receive 15 tickets for use at the carnival, while those who register for the club on the day of the event will receive 10 tickets.

This year, the library hopes for record numbers of children to join the club, and hopefully take the Olympic theme to heart and get into the competitive spirit. In the annual competition between district elementary schools, Pasadena Elementary School has won the trophy for reading the most books for the last two years in a row. Will Pasadena triumph once more, or will the challengers from Stratford Road, Parkway and Old Bethpage elementary schools out-read the returning champions this year? Time will tell, but whoever wins, there should be a lot of reading going on this summer.

“Read For The Gold” will run from June 25 to Aug. 12; “Beneath the Covers,” the adult program, will run from June 20 to Aug. 30. Registration for both programs for POB residents is going on now, while non-district residents may register for “Read For The Gold,” starting Monday, July 2, space-permitting.

Next week, the Herald will cover some of the new services that will be available at the library for patrons of all ages, beginning this summer.