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Firefighters and libraries’ financial incentives encourage kids to read

2:45 pm June 25th, 2012

The Dispatch

Pierce County Library System is giving kids a financial incentive to read this summer.

School-age children are being encouraged to boost their reading skill and qualify for prizes during the libraries’ summer reading program, which will run June 23 through Sept. 2. And for the first 10 hours of reading that they log, participants can have up to $5 deducted from any fines they have for not returning books or other materials on time.

Library officials said the one-time opportunity to reduce fines is being offered to help children and their families “during these tough economic times.”

The goal of the reading program overall is to have children spend time with books and keep making progress in literacy during the summer break from school.

Besides their usual classroom activities, students are encouraged by volunteers to read. An example of that extra motivation is the Eatonville Fire Department, which regularly sent firefighters to Eatonville Elementary School to read to youngsters.

Public libraries can keep that kind of momentum going now that the 2011-12 school year is ending and a period of potential non-reading is starting, said Neel Parikh, executive director of Pierce County Library System.

“Summer reading is a critical bridge from the time the school doors close for the summer and when the bell rings for classes in the fall,” Parikh said.

Among the summertime library activities is Teen Summer Challenge, a new online gamification program in which teenagers can interact with friends and share reviews of books, music, movies and places. Pierce County Library Foundation will award an iPad to a winner randomly selected from the top point earners.

For children 3 to 11 years old, libraries will share books and free events about airships, nocturnal animals amd the solar system, among other subjects. Prizes for reading will include a free pass to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium or Northwest Trek, plus an iPad Touch that will be awarded in a drawing among participants who’ve read for at least 15 hours. The Library Foundation is donating the iPad.

Children 3 years old and younger can participate with their parents and caregivers in the Wee Readers activity. Researchers have reported that children learn basic skills at the same rate during the school year. Summer reading helps prolong learning, library officials said.

Mark Quirie, an Eatonville Fire Department lieutenant, wears bunker gear while demonstrating to students how firefighters rescue people from fires. The demonstration was part of a visit by firefighters who regularly read to students during the 2011-12 school year as a way to encourage reading by yong people. Fire chief Bob Hudspeth is in the background. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

The summer program’s primary sponsor is Sunlogics Power Inc., with other support from the Library Foundation and Friends of the Libraries.

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