Siri Larson, Adam Meyer, Robert Peterson and Anthony Cole of the Kenai Performers, from left, perform A.A. Mine's "The Ugly Duckling" at Kenai Kenai Community Library on Monday as part of the Alaska Summer Reading Program. The one-act comedy, set in Medieval times, fit in well with the program's theme this year, "Dragons, Dreams and Daring Deeds."
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Unbeknownst to them, hundreds of central Kenai Peninsula kids are doing something this summer they would probably say they'd rather avoid outside of school: learning.
But with the Alaska Summer Reading Program, kids have so much fun learning it still seems like vacation.
The Kenai, Soldotna and Kasilof libraries participate in the program for preschool to high school-age youths that combines story time, arts and crafts and other activities with at-home reading to keep kids turning pages outside the classroom.
"Reading takes practice, so it's good to keep practicing," said Linda McNair, librarian at Kenai Community Library.
Chris Bergholtz said she loves the program and enrolls her daughters, Alex, 8, and Ithaca, 5, every year.
"I like to have the kids read, not only to me but I read to them," she said.
The crafts and other extras that go along with the program help keep them interested.
"I like the different activities they do. There's something different every week," Bergholtz said.
The program theme this year is "Dragons, Dreams and Daring Deeds," so libraries have offered activities with Medieval flair.
Favorites so far have been making castles at the Kenai library, making coats of arms at the Soldotna library and a one-act comedy set in Medieval times the Kenai Performers put on at the Kenai and Soldotna libraries called "The Ugly Duckling." The Kasilof library plans to do the coat of arms exercise in July.
The program is administered through the Alaska State Library in conjunction with the Alaska Library Association. Libraries that want to offer the program are supplied with book lists, goodies for kids, ideas for activities and other helpful information.
"If it wasn't for them, small libraries like (Kasilof) wouldn't have any turnout at all," said Shawna Wolk, Kasilof librarian.
The Alaska program operates in conjunction with the Collaborative Library Summer Program that coordinates the program with about 28 other states. The program has been offered for so long it's become a summer staple for parents who grew up with it and now enroll their kids.
"Even my children participated in it, and they are grown and gone," McNair said.
Though other summer activities have developed over the years that compete for kids' interest, the Alaska Summer Reading Program still is going strong on the peninsula. At the Kenai library, McNair said there are about 60 kids who regularly attend the weekly reading and activity sessions.
"Gee, it's just been great," she said. "There's lots of books going out of the library, and that's wonderful."
The Soldotna library program is seeing its most successful year with about 250 kids enrolled, said Library Director Margaret Brewster.
"This was our best year yet," she said. "We are just ecstatic with how it's went this year. ... What's surprising this year is it hasn't slowed down. I signed up 10 kids (Monday) morning."
The Kasilof library in Tustumena Elementary School is only open Mondays and Thursdays but still has 14 young readers enrolled.
"We're kind of small, but we're still doing big things," Wolk said. "... We try to incorporate lots of crafts and activities with story time and reading."
The Kenai program wraps up with a party at 1 p.m. July 11 at the ball fields at the Kenai Green Strip Park on Main Street Loop. The Soldotna program ends with a party at the library at 2 p.m. July 16. The Kasilof program continues through July and ends with a party the first week in August. Young readers can join in the fun anytime.
Librarians hope kids remember that reading is fun even when the programs are over.
"Anything to encourage them to come and be familiar and comfortable with a library and check out their own books," McNair said. "That's what we always do. We encourage children to bring their parents to the library."
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