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Cluing Kids In to Joy of Reading

Libraries, bookstores join forces to make reading less of a mystery during the summer.


The minute the last bell rings and the classroom door closes, schoolchildren abandon the world of words for something more tangible: the hard thud of a baseball snapping into a mitt, the cool splash of a swimming pool and the inviting arms of an elm tree.

But this summer, a call has gone out to Southland kids: Get thyself to a library. Or a bookstore. Or borrow some books from a friend. Just--read. And be rewarded in the process.

This year, for the first time, all five Southern California library systems (Inland, Metropolitan Cooperative, Santiago, Serra Cooperative and South State Cooperative) have joined to produce a common free summer reading program with the theme "Library Detective Inc.: A Case for Reading." Children, led by a character named Gator Gumshoe, are challenged to become reading "sleuths," to seek out the answers to the questions that perplex them most and to discover new authors and new genres in the process.

"Library Detective Inc." is targeted at kindergarten to sixth-graders; a smaller program for junior high and high school students, called "Totally Teen Reading Club Unplugged," with folders that look like compact disc cases, is being tested this summer at some local libraries.

With both programs, libraries share printed materials, which were designed (with help from local librarians) and printed by Wells Fargo Bank. Children who enroll in the reading program at their local libraries will receive these materials free, including bookmarks, reading folders, book bags and posters.

"Library Detective Inc." represents a cooperative effort by the five area library systems to create a consistent program so that children will see the same materials at their schools and in their libraries, and thus will be more compelled to participate. This effort has been over a year in the making, according to Bea Chute, projects manager of the Metropolitan Cooperative Library System, which includes Los Angeles city libraries. "It's a wonderful effort among all of these libraries, and it's good for the public to be able to go into any one of these libraries and be a part of the program," Chute said.

More than 450 libraries in Southern California will participate in "Library Detective Inc." this summer, sharing materials while tailoring their programs to fit the needs of their communities. Many, with the help of local businesses and their own in-library booster groups, will offer incentives--from candy to discounts at local bookstores--for children who come to the library regularly.

The Los Angeles Public Library kicked off its program last Saturday with the "L.A. Kids Read Festival." Library programming that will complement "Library Detective" this summer includes performances by local theater groups at all of the library's branches as well as crafts, discussion groups and weekly drawings.

Karen Holland of Los Angeles, the mother of Shaun, 6, who will be participating in "Library Detective Inc.," is grateful to have such opportunities available. "Even though I hope he will mostly play this summer, reading is essential. Through this kind of program, he will be learning and will have an important structure over the summer," she said.

Libraries are not the exclusive bastions of the summer reading business, however; book stores also get into the game. Local stores, including independent book stores such as Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop in La Verne and Adventures for Kids in Ventura and chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, are either supporting library efforts or creating their own programs.

Barnes & Noble, for example, already has launched an extensive summer reading program that calls on kids to read eight books over the course of the summer. Like the libraries, Barnes & Noble told children about the program at local schools before the end of the academic year. When children return a completed form to a Barnes & Noble store, they are given a certificate of appreciation and a special poster.

Both the libraries and the book stores feel that one's effort complements the other's. Julie Shapiro, store manager of Barnes & Noble in Burbank, said she doesn't care where children get their books for her program--as long as they are participating. "It's the love of reading we are trying to foster," she said.


The following library systems are participating in "Library Detective Inc." For dates and times call your local library; or for general information:

Metropolitan Library Cooperative System, (818) 683-8244, includes Alhambra, Azusa, Altadena, Arcadia, Cerritos, Commerce, Covina, Downey, El Segundo, Glendale, Glendora, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Oxnard, Palos Verdes, Pomona, Signal Hill, San Marino, Santa Fe Springs, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Torrance and Whittier.

Santiago Library System, (714) 566-3055, includes Buena Park, Fullerton, Newport Beach, City of Orange, Orange County, Placentia and Yorba Linda.

South State Cooperative Library System, (310) 940-8522, includes Inglewood, County of Los Angeles, Pasadena and Palmdale.

Inland Library System, (909) 369-7999, includes Banning, Beaumont, Colton, Corona, Inyo County, Palo Verde, Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Mirage, Riverside, Riverside County, San Bernardino, San Bernardino County and Upland.

Serra Cooperative Library System, call local library for information, includes Brawley, Calexico, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, Escondido, Imperial County, National City, Oceanside, San Diego, San Diego County library districts.

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