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LARSON: Library books community for summer reading

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Today is the day. The kickoff for the 2011 Summer Reading Program at the Gwinnett library. Every library in the county is signing kids up for their big summer reading event. (If you can’t make it to the party, you can sign up online at www.gwinnettpl.org).

And this year it is really big. Even the theme, “One World, Many Stories,” invites kids to widen their world with everything they can read.

The library staff has planned a world of activities at all branches to further increase both children’s interest in reading and the number of children participating. More than 200 activities will include puppet shows, craft projects, theme-related games, drawings, special guests, teen-only events, story times and special hands-on events focusing on different cultures around the world, including a guest from “down under” who will give kids a chance to play a didgeridoo.

“Reaching over 37,000 children in 2010, the Gwinnett County Public Library has seen a large increase in participation the Summer Reading Program,” director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said. “While these free programs are fun they also support their education and help prevent the dreaded ‘summer brain drain.’”

But it’s not just the library staff putting all of this together. Sponsors from all over the state have contributed more than $200,000 worth of incentives and prizes for kids who reach their goal.

Barnes and Noble has contributed 3,000 free book vouchers and Aurora Theatre has donated 2,000 Children’s Playhouse tickets.

Local restaurants are offering “food for thought” via coupons: From Chick-fil-A, 28,000 free Ice Dreams; Sonic, 30,000 Slushies; and Stevi B’s of Snellville, 300 kids meals.

“We like to do whatever we can do to help motivate children to read and to support our library system,” Chick-fil-A franchise owner Mark Treadwell said.

Sports organizations have also teamed up to encourage kids to exercise their brains. The Georgia Force, Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers have all generously donated free tickets to their games and two lucky readers will get the chance of a lifetime to throw out the first pitch for the Braves. And Stars and Strikes in Dacula has donated vouchers for free laser tag and bumper cars.

“The entire Georgia Force organization from top to bottom realizes the importance of being part of the community. If kids get a jump start on reading at an early age their chances of being a success in increases substantially. We hope that giving people an incentive to read will help them begin a lifelong love affair with reading,” Georgia Force General Manager Chris Hendley said.

Branch prizes — for one winner per branch — will be art classes worth more than $600 at Masters in the Making or The Place — An Art Studio and Playroom. Grand prizes are an annual family pass from Stone Mountain Park and a Nook from Friends of the Library.

“One World, Many Stories.” With all the excitement the library has booked for the summer, I think if I do any follow-up stories to this column, they’ll include a lot of real page turners.

Susan Larson is a freelance writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.