Where can the children of Fort Lee go during the summer when they are free from school? The library!
hosts a variety of programs over the summer for children of all ages in their children’s department, all of which are completely free to Fort Lee residents with a library card.
The library’s summer reading program theme this year is world culture and travel with the slogan, “One World, Many Stories.” The program is shared in libraries across the state, starting with the New Jersey State Library. So even though only Fort Lee children can sign up at Fort Lee's library, children from other towns can sign up in their own library.
Sarah Pardi, a librarian in the Fort Lee Public Library's children’s department, is especially excited about the program.
“It just makes things more interesting and fun,” she said.
Monday was the program’s official start date. Over 300 children signed up. Although sign-ups come in a huge rush in the beginning, Pardi said the majority of the children who sign up do stick with the program, which runs through most of the summer until August 19.
The program is easy enough to follow and take part in, since it encourages independent reading. Most of the work takes place at home. While there is a suggested reading list that features a number of “worldly” titles, students can choose any titles they like.
Once they complete a book, they log it in the program-supplied journal.
"[The journal] stays in the library," Pardi said. "When they come in, they take it out themselves, and write the name of the books they read and earn prizes as they go."
As they reach milestone numbers – 10 books, 20 books, etc. – the children win small prizes. There is no real cap.
“Last year we had some kids who read over 1,000 books in one summer,” Pardi said.
The “worth” of the prizes increases with the numbers, so the more children read, the better prizes they win. Pardi has kept the nature of the prizes a secret in order to put emphasis on the real prize--the accomplishment of reading. At the end of the summer, the department will host a party for all the students who stuck it out to the end.
“The incentives for reading throughout the summer are just little things, [even though some kids] will say ‘oooh, do you have iPods?’” Pardi said.
Children of all ages can join. Pardi said that she even gets some infants that sign up (Well, their parents do). Parents come with their child and read to them, then add the books to the journal created for them.
“If you’re reading with your child, or to them, come," Pardi said. "We don’t put any age restrictions on it."
The program runs concurrently with the department's other programs like Story Time, Craft Club, Karaoke Club, Movie Nights and Bingo. All the programs are free, as always.
”Fort Lee is a big town, and we have a lot of people who aren’t taking advantage of the great library we have here, and the great children’s room we have," Pardi said. "We just want those parents with their children who have never come to the library to come and take a look. We’ve got to get the kids reading during the summer, so they’re ready for September.”
Pardi said she sees the same kids all year round.
“We really build a positive relationship with the kids,” she said. “We’ve [made the library] a fun place to be.”