The normally calm Statesboro Regional Library was abuzz with activity Tuesday, as library staff conducted day 2 of an annual program encouraging children to read.
Colorful decorations, free books, and a show were all on the menu for Langston Chapel Elementary School students taking part in the library’s two-week Reading is Fundamental event.
The Reading is Fundamental, or RIF, program and book distribution — which started Monday and runs through May 9 — invites more than 4,000 Bulloch County prekindergarten through second-grade students to the library each year to get excited about books.
“The primary goal is to motivate children to read. Everything we do here — the show, the decorations, etc. — is all part of a plan to make reading exciting and fun; to show that it is important,” said Elaine McDuffie, the library’s head of youth and family services. “It really does work. Teachers tell us that children are more likely to choose reading as a free-time activity as a result of these programs.”
Each year, children are bused to the library and presented with an original puppet show and free book.
The program, recently selected as one of the nation’s Top 25 RIF programs, is in its 34th year in Bulloch County. In that time, nearly half a million books have been provided to area children.
Tuesday, youngsters viewed a puppet play titled “The HOLE Story,” which chronicled the tale of a mouse who had fallen into a hole, and the menagerie of animal friends that tried to help him out.
After the performance, students selected books to take home, but not before reading with community volunteers.
In large groups sprawled across the floor and in small pairs in the corner, library staff and volunteers — including students from Statesboro’s Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology — shared stories from the new books with visiting children.
“The younger kids think, ‘If these older students think reading is important, then it must be,’” McDuffie said, about the student volunteers. “It is a motivational factor for the younger children.”
CCAT sophomore Taylor Harrison has volunteered for the event each of the last five years.
“I really enjoy it, and I can see that (the children) really love it,” Harrison said. “As they get older they want to read more and more.”
The Reading is Fundamental event serves as a kickoff to the library’s summer reading activities for children and adults. The library hosts events that include “everything from music and stories, to magicians and animals” to continue fostering a love for reading, McDuffie said.
The Summer Reading Program begins Monday, June 3. Registration for programs begins May 28 at the library, and is already open online at www.strl.info.
For more information about programs at the Statesboro Regional Library, or to volunteer for RIF, individuals can call (912) 764-1344 or visit the library during regular hours.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.