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FOR KIDS : Going by the Book : Library program encourages youngsters to visit branches and set their reading goals.

June 23, 1995|HEATHER W. MORGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Heather W. Morgan is a regular contributor to The Times

Sylvia Ochoa once dreaded summer--the heat, the long days and no school. With a house full of children--five, to be exact--and little extra money for camps or park classes, summer posed a challenge.

"When they were young, I'd turn on sprinklers and bang! Instant entertainment," said Ochoa, whose children range from 3 to 11. "But it isn't so simple as they get older."

Three years ago, Ochoa started mining the programs for children at public libraries. "I began using their summer reading programs as our entertainment guide," she said.

During the school year, her family frequents branches close to their Van Nuys home. But in summer she takes the kids throughout the San Fernando Valley to take advantage of other libraries and their reading programs and story times.

"It's not unusual for us to take a bus over to Chatsworth or North Hollywood or Woodland Hills," she said. "We pack lunches and make it an all-day event. Sometimes the older ones are involved in more than one reading program.

"The toughest part is keeping track of which library books belong to which branch."

This year, the Los Angeles Public Library will encourage summer reading at its 18 Valley branches with a program called "Amazing Library Kids!"

By mid-May, Elizabeth Nelson, Studio City's children's librarian, is knee-deep into promoting her library's summer reading program.

Traveling to half a dozen public and private schools, she seeks to familiarize the students with the concept of summer reading and answers questions about the library's new automated system.

"Our program stresses setting up goals," said Nelson, who's been at the Studio City branch for 10 years. "This is not a competition.

"There are so many levels of readers--young, old, fast, slow. We want each child, with a parent's assistance, to set a challenging goal that they can obtain by the end of six weeks."

Ochoa likes the approach.

"My kids have always been at varying levels of ability, and not just because of their age," she said. "This way, they can focus on their own goals, not an arbitrary one.

"And I hate to harp on money," she said. "But you can't beat the price. It's free!"

Here's a look:

* The Burbank Public Library has three locations--Central, Buena Vista and Northwest. All participate in "Solve Mysteries--Read!," a six-week program where children complete six books. Materials and reading list are provided. Entertainment, puppet shows and story hours are offered. Call Central at (818) 953-9737, Buena Vista at (818) 953-9747 or Northwest at (818) 953-9750.

* Santa Clarita Valley has branches in Canyon Country, Newhall and Valencia. They offer "Read to Me" preschool programs as well as a six-week Summer Reading Club. The program kicks off June 30 and concludes Aug. 4, with a certificate, magic show and party. Call Canyon Country at (805) 251-2720, Newhall at (805) 259-0750 or Valencia at (805) 259-8942.

* The Glendale Public Library's six locations will stage a reading program through Aug. 12 called "Discover the Amazing World of Library Kids." Children need to read eight books of their own choice. Call the Glendale Central Library, (818) 548-2027.

In the Los Angeles Public Library System, call your local branch for specifics, but here's an idea of what to expect:

* Studio City Branch offers "Fun With Watercolors," a program for kids in third and fourth grades, from 10 to 11 a.m. July 14; 10 a.m. July 26 is "Knight The Dragon" puppet show; 3 p.m. July 31 is "Tunes For Teens," with cartoonist Jack Enyart, for kids 10 and older. Call (818) 769-5212.

* North Hollywood Branch offers preschool story times at 11 a.m. July 1, 15 and 29. Other programs include "Wildlife on Wheels" July 6; "Stories and Songs" July 13; "Family Story Hour" July 20, 27 and Aug. 3; "Peanuts Magic" Aug. 10. Final celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 12.

* Platt Branch kicks off Saturday with Charles the Clown for children over 4; preschool story times at 10:30 a.m. July 11, 25, Aug. 1 and 15; family reading hours are planned July 1 and 22; an awards event is set for Aug. 26. Call (818) 340-9386.

* Northridge Branch offers crafts at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays; the Grandparents and Books program continues at various times in the afternoon. Call (818) 886-3640.

* Panorama City Branch presents "Wee Tell Stories" at 10:30 a.m. July 1; Grandparents and Books program continues every afternoon. Call (818) 894-4071.

* Sherman Oaks Branch hosts "Wildlife on Wheels" at 6:30 p.m. July 10; "Flights of Fantasy" at 2 p.m. Aug. 19. Call (818) 981-7850.

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