Getting wild to encourage kids to read

Libraries: A jungle-themed summer program helps get children and teens interested in books.


In Carroll County

July 10, 2005|By Jill Stone | Jill Stone,SUN STAFF

As groups of excited children poured into the meeting room of the Eldersburg Public Library, Karleigh Mulliaux, 3, settled into her grandmother's lap to watch an arm become an elephant's trunk, a mind-reading monkey crash cymbals and a rabbit appear from a box.

Anne Wolff said that once Prop the Magic Bunny appeared, her granddaughter was astounded. "She said, `Oh my, he's real!'" said Wolff while Karleigh watched as the bunny wiggled its nose at her from the front of the room.

The magic show was part of the library's jungle-themed summer reading program to encourage kids of all ages to read.

The Wild About Reading program is not only "to encourage the children's use of the library," said June Bitzel, 43, the children's library assistant at the North Carroll public library, but it is also "extremely important to have the kids read over the summer."

Ann Wisner, an employee at the state department of library development and services since 1976, said that with the help of the summer program, which started in the 1970s, the Carroll County library system has had the highest per capita circulation in the state for 13 years.

"Carroll County is truly a reading community," said Wisner.

With more than 12,000 children participating, the Wild About Reading program offers several activities that promote reading. Carroll County public libraries started the reading program June 13.

Libraries provide the younger participants with a game board to help them learn about different activities that are being offered. They can also write down the titles of the books that they have read. After turning in the coupons at the bottom of the game board for each activity or book completed, the participant is entered into a final drawing for a grand prize Aug. 20 -- a bike or a $25 gift certificate.

The program also involves teens with the "Say What" program. They can enter a "Summer Shorts" writing contest, which offers cash prizes for first, second and third place winners.

"Reading makes such a difference in maintaining a child's skill level from when they leave school in the spring to when they start in the fall ... and plus it's fun," said Wisner.

To kick off this summer's program, several branches provided face painting, crafts and games. Activities have included stories about jungle animals, a performance by the singing duo, Two of a Kind, as well as the magic show by Roger Lindsay and Prop.

Amber Haslinger, 26, the children's library associate in Eldersburg, said that reading "opens the doors to all learning."

Lindsay, who has performed magic shows since 1962, floods his audience with jokes as well as magic, using Prop the Magic Bunny, to mesmerize children.

"We want you to take books out and read them, and then come back and say you read them," Lindsay told his audience, which filled the Eldersburg library meeting room.

Eli the Elephant, Marvin the Magical Mind Reading Monkey and Rocky the Racoon also joined Lindsay on Wednesday afternoon to help promote the program and to get children excited about reading.

Lindsay allowed several youngsters to help him pull a scarf out of a box or to read numbers off playing cards.

Wolff said she learned about the summer reading program through a newspaper ad.

"We've been reading books to her since she was an infant," Wolff said of her granddaughter. "She won't go to sleep without having a book read to her."

Wolff said she believed that participating in the program could help Karleigh learn to enjoy reading.

During the magic show, Karleigh "wouldn't keep her eyes off the bunny," said Wolff, who hopes that the magic show will make her excited about going to the library.

More attention has been directed to the summer reading program and the release of the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling, on Saturday. Libraries in Carroll County will open to allow the children to check out the book at 12:01 a.m.

The Westminster branch plans to open its doors at 8:45 p.m. Friday to show a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, with checkout of the new book after the movie, starting at 12:01 a.m.

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