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Library reading program keeps students focused on learning

WESSON – Twelve-year-old Naomi Weathersby had a big stack ofbooks already, but she kept flipping through other books, lookingfor reading material for the coming week. She finally picked outsome books from C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” and a storybookthat included “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Meanwhile, Jasmine Wilson, 9, checked out books from WessonLibrary volunteer Ann James.

Weathersby and Wilson were two children of around 30 that werecrowded into the library and the surrounding area on Tuesday.

With its summer reading program, the Wesson Public Library hasbeen improving children’s reading skills during the summer foraround a quarter of a century. Librarian Susan Alsbury said everyTuesday during the month of July, the summer reading program meetsto allow children to check out books, learn from guests, and docrafts as a group.

“We usually feature one program every week, and we try to makeit unique,” said Alsbury.

But more than the guest speakers from various venues, the pointof the program is to keep children reading throughout the summerwhen their minds would usually take a break.

“We do this in conjunction with the schools because we knowduring the summer they’re out of school and they focus on outsideactivities,” Alsbury said. “With this program, we’re encouragingreading throughout the summer.”

The program rewards students in different age groups, startingat age 5 and through age 12, for the numbers of pages they readduring the summer. There is also a “Library Manners” award and a”Most Dedicated Reader” award that is given at the end of themonth.

And there are other perks, too.

“We have a weekly drawing and we try to give something awayevery week,” Alsbury said. “We’ve given away games, and we’ll givetheater tickets. Plus all the children that participate can ride onthe Christmas float in the parade.”

The thing that has kept the July program going strong all theseyears, Alsbury said, is loyalty from previous readers through theyears.

“Every one of our teen helpers started out at 4 or 5 years oldwith us,” she said. “And they have progressed through the program,and they don’t want to leave.”

So, she said, there will be a teen reading program next summerto accommodate the book lovers in the teen population.

A new addition for the reading program, but also for the libraryand the Wesson community, is a pavilion next to the building thatthe summer readers are using for a place to do crafts, have snacksand gather during the Tuesday sessions. Alsbury said the coveredoutside area will also be used for other town and libraryfunctions.

“Between Wesson Friends of the Library and the town, we built itso we can have programs outside,” she said. “We’ll use it duringChristmas With Friends when we do our downtown caroling andsinging; we’ll have it there. This is an all-purpose thing to aidthe library.”

Meanwhile, just because July is halfway over doesn’t mean kidscan’t participate in the reading program, Alsbury said.

“We just want to invite anyone who wants to participate,” shesaid.