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PEOPLE : FOR KIDS : Homework Away From Home : Area libraries offer what children of working parents sometimes can't get elsewhere--help with their studies.

March 12, 1993|STEPHANIE STASSEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

David Barsumyan has found a quiet haven for doing homework, a place where he has access to thousands of books and someone to help him when he is stumped.

"My parents are always working," said David, 12, a sixth-grade student at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School in Sun Valley. "I can't always get help at home."

But he can get it at the Sun Valley Library.

David is one of about a dozen students who regularly visit the library after school, to do homework and receive pointers from a volunteer tutor. David and the other children spread out their books at tables along the south wall to tackle math problems, practice handwriting or perhaps complete a reading assignment. On a recent afternoon, David was working on a report about Niagara Falls.

In an effort to help children improve their study skills, the Los Angeles Public Library started the after-school Homework Centers about a year ago at six branches, representing a mix of lower-income communities throughout the city. Among them was the Sun Valley branch, with the only such center in the San Fernando Valley at that time.

After last April's riots, the program was expanded to areas directly affected by the civil unrest. And this spring, the program is being expanded again, to add five more libraries, for a total of 26 of the city's 64 branches. Among these will be the North Hollywood Regional Branch Library.

"We surveyed kids about what they want in their library and consistently the answer was they need homework assistance," said Laura Weber, young-adult services coordinator for the city library system.

As part of the expanded program, 24 branches will receive personal computers financed by private grants and government funding. North Hollywood expects to receive its computer in mid-April.

Although Sun Valley is one of the two branches in the program not scheduled to receive a computer, the branch accommodates its young scholars in other ways. There are tables set aside for them, and materials such as pens, pencils, crayons and paper are provided. A box of reference books is on the table within easy reach.

"This encourages them to use the library, so they know there is space reserved for them and that the library cares about them," said Weber. "They have a feeling of belonging."

The program at the Sun Valley branch can accommodate as many as 40 students at a time, in first through 12th grades. Parental participation is not required, but the librarians hope that parents will help their children at home. Children may attend as often as they like, with no registration or time commitment necessary. And it's free.

Besides the designated study area, a key element of the program is the help given by tutors. Since February, Todd Stresak, 18, has volunteered, earning class credit at Village Christian School in Sun Valley and the satisfaction of helping another.

"I feel good when I'm able to help them because I was once in the same boat," said Stresak, who plans to attend college after graduating from high school this year. When he needed help with homework he would call his grandfather, who "would just confuse me all the more," he said.

In addition to Stresak, the Sun Valley branch hopes to find other volunteers to tutor now and after he graduates.

"We're looking for either adult or peer tutors who can work one-on-one or in small groups," said Judith Tetove, senior librarian. "They should have patience and be available right after school. Sometimes it's just a matter of reading the books the kids have and pointing out where the answers are."

Carlos Sanchez said he can get more done at the library than at home. "I come here when I have a report to do," said Carlos, 11, who was working on a report about Eskimos for his sixth-grade class at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School.

In addition to more tutors, Tetove hopes eventually to find corporate support to provide the library with computers, for use by students as well as other library patrons.

WHERE AND WHEN

* Location: The Homework Center at Sun Valley Branch Library, 7935 Vineland Ave.

* Library Hours: 12:30 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The library is closed Sundays and holidays.

* Tutor Available: 2:30-4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through mid-June.

* Call: (818) 764-7907 to volunteer as a tutor or to get information.

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