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Record chapter for summer books

32,000 children at 17 sites joined in reading project

– Who says kids don’t read anymore? That’s certainly not the case if you look at the success of the Allen County Public Library’s summer reading program, which set record numbers this year for participation.

More than 25,000 children signed up for the reading program, which is funded by the Foellinger Foundation. The participation was about 2,400 higher than the previous record, said Cheryl Ferverda, communications and development manager at the library.

Fort Wayne Community Schools got involved this year and provided 6,746 free lunches for participants during the summer-long program.

“This year’s summer reading program hit new highs at every level,” Ferverda told library board members Thursday.

Part of that success was attributed to the free lunches and to special events and incentives offered five days a week at 17 different branches or sites, Ferverda said.

Some children brought guests or siblings, and in the end, nearly 32,000 children took part in the overall program.

The program was orchestrated by Nancy Magi, the library’s youth services coordinator.

The library also hired and trained 30 teens and four supervisors for Team Read, a literacy component of the summer reading program.

According to Magi, Team Read helped tutor 576 children. The teens gained valuable knowledge and workforce skills, Magi said in a report to the Foellinger Foundation.

Featuring a different book each week in five targeted branches was a huge success, according to Magi. The library tried to provide sites in areas that had a high number of children in need.

Program officials set another goal to increase vocabulary, Magi said, and weekly themed programs were planned around popular books and characters such as Harry Potter, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and the Olympians series.

Magi said she believes the vocabulary component was responsible for the participation spike.

The program ran from June 14 through Aug. 5, and each participant had the opportunity to receive free books featuring that week’s theme, she said.

The Foellinger grant allowed the library to give away more than 12,000 books this summer.

“Having books in the home is a benefit that cannot be denied,” Magi said. “Not only did we encourage reading, but we got over 12,000 books into homes in Allen County.”