Libraries Lure Kids with Fun Activities

Article excerpt

With students out of school for the summer, Clay County libraries have a lot for kids to do as their summer programs get into full swing. Libraries have made increased efforts to solicit the participation of the students this summer.

Before school let out earlier this month, for the first time, a library card application was sent to every elementary school student in Clay County, said Pat Coffman, assistant director of the Orange Park branch library.

"We sent applications to 18 schools, 604 classes, and reached 15,000 students in hopes of a higher participation rate this summer."

Clay's libraries have an array of events for children ages 3-12 to take part in, with each library branch having its own schedule of activities. Available six days a week throughout the summer, the programs started Monday.

From storytime to movies, art contests to magic shows, libraries have events going on every day except Sunday. Animal and science exhibits and multicultural fairs are just a few examples of things scheduled to give children a hands-on and visual perspective of whatever the reading theme for that day might be.

"It's a variety of different ways to let them know that libraries are a fun place to be, it's not just a place to go do homework," Coffman said.

All programs are geared to be "age-level-appropriate" to cater to the needs and skills of the age group.

"This year we have more animated programs -- more crafts, more puppet shows and more involvement," said Gayle Taylor of the Orange Park children's library. "There are more people from the community actually involved and participating in the programs."

The Orange Park library's "Art Fun for Everyone & Art Contest" is an example of the community involvement in the summer programs. The contest began yesterday and featured Jacksonville artist and children's books author Shirley Mozelle, who encouraged the children to be individual as well as creative and taught them drawing techniques. The winner's art will be displayed on the front cover of the Clay County Commission's annual report published in the fall. The deadline to enter the contest is July 15.

Outreach programs are also available to day-care groups through volunteer storytellers who visit the site and read to children. Puppet shows are also available at some branches.

The events scheduled on weekends and evenings are part of the library's efforts to reach all Clay County students this summer, Coffman said.

"We initiated those last summer to try to reach students that are in day care or for parents that work and don't have the opportunity to bring the children to our summer programs during the weekday. …