Libraries stir summer buzz for books

June 29, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Schools are shuttered, but Harford County's 11 library branches are abuzz with activities to encourage students to continue learning.

Take "Bugs Don't Bug Me," an interactive music program, performed by Tracey Eldridge, that made the rounds of Harford's libraries last week. The singer, musician and recording artist gave a one-woman show that meshed well with the library's summer reading theme - "Catch the Reading Bug," a child-friendly activity designed to boost reading.

The answers to her opening questions came quickly, proving that even the littlest library patrons know their bugs.

"Who am I?" she would croon as she strummed a guitar. Then, after one tuneful hint, her audience would shout out the answer. The children knew a cricket has ears on its knees and that bees have baskets on their legs. They easily guessed which bug never prays and which one blinks.

The library system, which just celebrated a 4-million circulation milestone, launched the bug theme, based on the national summer reading model, about two weeks ago.

Already, many eager young readers are set to log volumes that they have read. Completion of the program by mid-August comes with a certificate, a book to keep or a gift card for Barnes & Noble.

"One of our goals is to provide children with fun, educational opportunities throughout the summer," said Margaret Polischeck, children's librarian at the Abingdon branch.

Wendie Old, her counterpart at the Joppa branch, said the schedule is crammed with children's activities, including visits from the Maryland Science Center and Maryland Zoo at Baltimore, buggy Bingo games and picnic surprises.

"Summer reading is a big theme in Harford County," Old said. "We have many families that just go from branch to branch. They plan their summers around us."

The programs and services have boosted circulation by another 1 million to 4 million in the last three years, making Harford's libraries among the busiest in the state.

"We are reaching people," said Janine Lis, marketing manager. "We are opening more branches and adding services, like drive-through windows and DVD borrowing."

Eldridge's performances built on the summer theme.

"I love bugs!" said Hudson Hostetter, 3, as he was waiting in line for the program at the Joppa branch.

"What he really likes is to go into the children's section and look for books," said his mother, Kelly Hostetter.

Susie Rising, a former music teacher, said she and her two toddlers take advantage of all the library programs.

"They have a lot of neat things for children of all ages and a lot of variety," said Rising, a Joppa resident.

Eldridge introduced her young audiences to unfamiliar instruments, like the didgeridoo, made from a log hollowed out by insects, and demonstrated how bugs make music, too.

"If it sounds good, it's music,' she said. "If it sounds bad, it's a ruckus."

It's all about vibrations, she said.

"Anything that makes a sound is a vibration," said Aaron Grinberg, 5, who has been a regular patron since moving to Abingdon two years ago.

Sheryl Grinberg said her son loves music and the library.

"The staff here is so great with kids," she said. "There are so many programs where he can be with other kids."

During the one-hour program, Eldridge encouraged the children to sing, dance, read aloud, imitate bugs and play with parachutes, puppets and maracas.

Corinne Donnelly and Emily Gallagher, 7-year-old cousins, led a conga line of dancers - stepping, kicking and shaking maracas. Then, they read parts in a skit about a hungry praying mantis.

"Let's do more!" Emily said.

Emily's mother Lauren Gallagher frequently travels to the Abingdon library from her Perry Hall home to attend such programs, which she said are tailored perfectly to kids.

"They love dancing and putting on shows," she said.

Jacque Miller of Abingdon and her three pre-school-age grandchildren have been regular library patrons since they were babies.

"The library has wonderful programs," Miller said. "I really like that they have included even the youngest in the reading program."

After all that singing, dancing and bug lore, many in the audience meandered over to the children's department.

"Let's go get some books," said Emily.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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