Listen to the words Wendie Old uses to get children to read: "Bow toyour partner, forward and back. Right hand around. Left hand around.Both hands around. Dosy doe, slide. Do the Virginia Reel."
What'sa librarian doing showing kids a line dance?
Well, for Old, a librarian at the Fallston-Jarrettsville library,the dance routine is one of the activities she is using this summer to lure parents into bringing their children to the library so they can be exposed to books and reading.
The Virginia Reel Dance, a partners' dance that originated in Virginia in the 17th century, is among a host of such activities offered by the Harford County Library's Summer Reading Program, "Book Trek America." Other events include juggling demonstrations and guest speakers on topics of interest to youths.
Simply put, getting children to read is the main goal of the program.
And at least some parents who have taken advantage of the program say it works. Nancy Comi, a Fallston parent of two children ages 8 and 10, has both participating in the reading program.
"This gives me something to look forward to during the summer and allows meto be involved in the children's learning process." She says her children have taken a keen interest in the reading program. Each has already read 10 books.
Participating is easy. All parents have to do is register their children for the program's special events at their local library branch. For their part, children need simply to submit a summer reading book list to their librarian.
Frances V. Sedney, coordinator of children's services for Harford libraries, says that while the program is open to readers of any age, it's more or less geared to children. The majority of participants are ages 6 to 9.
Last summer there were 5,619 participants. Out of that number, 2,875 read 10 books, according to Sedney. Statistics for this summer's programhave not been compiled yet.
"Each branch is different, so each librarian can improvise," she said.
For example, the Fallston/Jarrettsville branch's program has a system of rewards for readers depending on the number of books they read. Children who finish two books getto put their initials on a map of the United States hanging in the library, while readers who complete 10 books get to put their photograph on a drawing of a train displayed in the library window.
Readers who finish 10 books get a sense of accomplishment and the added satisfaction of having their names and a list of the books they read sent to their school, Sedney said. Some children are even recognized at school assemblies in the fall, she said.
Librarians involved with the program have noticed two characteristics among participants: a diversity of tastes in books and higher reading levels than expected.
"We try hard not to be demanding about what types of books the children should read during the summer," Sedney said.
Among the more popular books are "The Sinking of the Titanic," by John Dudman, and books on outer space and dinosaurs.