This month’s rain has been a boon to a few groups: gardeners. Umbrella salespeople. And the Westport Public Library.
Each year, the library sponsors a kids’ summer reading program. Youngsters who fill out a Reading Journal receive a cherished “slap” bracelet, plus scavenger hunt questions they take through the library during the summer. They also get “summer cents” to use at the store or cafe.
The program is open to all — summer residents, visitors, even kids who live in nearby towns. So far, over 1200 children — in Westport and beyond — have signed up.
Children’s librarians promoted the program in schools. This year they did not have to compete with blue skies and beaches. “The rain helped with a big kickoff,” library director Maxine Bleiweis says.
What do youngsters read?
“Everything!” Bleiweis reports. A 6-year-old girl is devouring books on Egyptology; her friend is reading about sharks.
“It’s especially fun to see the ones who struggle to read at the beginning, and then ‘graduate’ to chapter books at the end,” says Bleiweis.
Children who find it easier to listen than read take out audiobooks. Those are also great for road trips, Bleiweis says.
For every 3 books read, a funky shape is hung from the children’s room ceiling. For every 12, a shape is placed on the board outside the room. Already, the 2nd floor is festooned with creative images.
Personalized service is key to the program’s success. “Kids say, ‘I really enjoyed xyz,’ and the librarian says, ‘then try abc,'” Bleiweis adds. “They return with thanks, and want more. A new relationship with an adult starts, and keeps going all through their library life here. It’s community at its best.”