WHAT BETTER way for a child to spend summer months than reading. It instills knowledge, develops language skills, expands the imagination. All this free of charge with a library card.
This summer, the Howard County Library encouraged and rewarded dozens of teen-agers and preteens for their summer reading accomplishments.
"I go to the library quite often," said Daphanie Beckford, 15, of Oakland Mills. "They only asked [students to read] eight books, which really isn't anything, so I was like, `All right, let me do this.' "
Daphanie read eight novels as a participant in the Sound Bytes program.
The Howard County library system - with those of Carroll, Frederick and Prince George's counties and Baltimore City - sponsored a two-month program in which branches distributed what look like blank compact-disc liner notes. After reading books of their choosing, middle school and high school participants filled in answers to questions about the books (referred to as "tracks," as in music tracks).
More than 1,000 registered for the program at the libraries. More than a third signed up at the east Columbia branch. Each registrant received a discount coupon to Six Flags America.
Steven Yenzer, 12, of Kings Contrivance participated in Sound Bytes after completing the library's summer reading program for younger children.
"I think I got more out of this program," he said, "because when we answered the questions, it made us think about the book: who the main character was, the genre."
The liner notes contain such questions as: "If this book were made into a movie, who would play the main character?" and "If I could write the sequel, it would be about ... ?"
The cover is a glowing green with the words "Reading Rhythms Summer Tour 2000" in silver and black. The program encouraged participants to use Internet sites to answer optional music trivia questions.
"I go to the library regularly," said Eric Diss, 13, of Long Reach.
The library gave participants who completed questions about four books a color-change marker (a three-pronged marker with a white tip that changes the blue tip's writing to aqua and the red tip's writing to yellow). Those who read eight books, as Eric and Steven did, received a gift certificate for a free bagel at the Bagel Bin and a coupon for 20 percent off at Borders Books.
"I really liked Agatha Christie's `Dead Man's Folly,'" said Eric, who describes himself as a fan of science fiction and mystery books. "It is very suspenseful, and she didn't drag it out like most mystery novels."
Daphanie, who worked as a junior counselor at a day camp this summer, said she tries to read one or two books a week when school's out.
"I also read some Shakespeare books," she said, "but I didn't write them in here because we only had room for eight."
More than 70 who registered at the east Columbia branch read eight books. The library sent each an invitation to one of five pizza and karaoke parties at Howard County libraries.
For those who haven't completed their liner notes, it's not too late. The library is handing out party invitations and prizes while supplies last.
Linda Chester of Oakland Mills and Roma Slyter of Owen Brown are featured with five other area artists at the Summer Invitational Art Show of the Artists' Gallery in Columbia.
Chester and Slyter specialize in still-life paintings. Chester, a watercolorist, also paints landscapes. Slyter's works are expressionistic floral pieces done in oil pastels and acrylics.
The show runs through Sept. 1. The gallery is at 10227 Wincopin Circle and is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.
Columbia Pro Cantare chorus, which rehearses at Hammond High School, is holding auditions for its 24th season.
The new season features performances of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," Ernest Bloch's "Sacred Service," and works by Aaron Copland and Gerald Finzi. The group performs with soloists and orchestral accompaniment.
The chorus will rehearse from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 5.
Information: 410-730-8549 or 410-465-5744.
As part of an effort to attract more residents to Kings Contrivance village board meetings, the board will hold a session at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Michael's Pub on Guilford Road in the Kings Contrivance Village Center.
The board meets twice a month. Previous meetings were held at the Amherst House.