Hundreds of Bulloch County students were offered a break from class Thursday, and the opportunity to dive into a good book.
As part of a two-week program to promote interest in reading, prekindergarten through second-grade students from Portal Elementary were bused to the Statesboro Regional Library, where they took in a puppet show and received free books.
Children were also given time to read with teachers and local volunteers during the annual Reading Is Fundamental book distribution event, which will wrap up a two-week run today at the Statesboro library.
The Portal students were among 4,000 children that have visited the library since April 30 to take part in the reading celebration.
“What we are doing here is focusing on putting the ‘fun’ in fundamental,” said Elaine McDuffie, the library’s youth and family services director. “The goal of RIF is plain and simple: it is to motivate kids to read. The way to do that is by showing them how much fun it can be.
“The best motivator for children is fun,” she continued. “If they enjoy something, they want to do it over and over again. And the more they do, the better they get at it.”
All Bulloch County elementary schools take part in the event.
On Thursday, students were ushered into the library’s community room — not before being greeted by RIF RIF the Dog, a brown hound mascot — to view a puppet show created and performed by library staff.
The youngsters laughed as they watched a menagerie of talking animals try to convince the sun and moon to stop hiding in a stone house on earth and return to their rightful places in the sky.
The show was in line with the 2012 Reading is Fundamental theme, “Dream Big! Read.”
“All of the decorations and the puppet show are theme-related and are just another way to get kids excited,” McDuffie said. “They help build enthusiasm for reading and show kids how much fun they can have at the library.”
After the performance, children made their way onto the library floor where they could choose, from a selection of books, a story of their own to take home. The event is one of three book distributions throughout the school year for pre-K through second-grade students, McDuffie said.
“In 33 years, we’ve probably given away more than half a million books,” she said.
Parent volunteers and students from Statesboro’s Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology were on-hand to read the selections.
The event serves as a kickoff to summer reading programs for children and adults. The library hosts events that include “everything from music and stories to magicians and animals” to continually foster a love for reading because the skill is invaluable, McDuffie said.
“Reading is important. We all know that,” she said. “It has always been important. But in today’s society, there is just no place for a poor reader.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.