If your kids whine about having nothing to do this summer, tell them to read a book. Or five books, or maybe 25 books.
A summer reading program at the 15 county-operated libraries is called "A Fright in the Attic" and dares kids to join the "Booky Monster Club."
It works this way: A kid checks out a book, reads it, returns it and gets a folder illustrated with a spooky attic filled with odds and ends. Then, for every five books checked out and read, the kid gets a monster sticker to match up with a hidden monster on the folder. These guys are benevolent spooks dressed in everything from a cheerleader outfit to an evening gown.
There are five monsters, meaning kids have to read a whopping 25 books to get them all. But after only 15 books, they can get a frightful bumper sticker that says, "My library made me a booky monster!"
It all starts June 19, and runs until Aug. 13. Folders are available at all the county-operated libraries.
The county libraries have put on a kids' summer reading program for decades. It helps fill the long summer, and it hones reading skills when school is out. But with the sharp cutback in library hours, young readers have been lost. Last summer, only 4,500 children participated--down from 8,200 in 1993, according to Julie Albright, assistant librarian for the children's division.
"The libraries are not open, so kids can't come in," she said.
Albright is hoping that special puppet shows at all the libraries this month will kick off the program with a bang. The shows started this week and will run through June 27. (Call your local library for times.)
Since the reading program has kind of a wild and wacky theme, so do the puppet shows. Albright and another library employee will masquerade as puppeteers behind a little portable stage while performing three stories: "Wombat Stew," "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Tiger Soup." The stories are actually a mix of puppets and life-size characters dressed in wild costumes made by another library worker.
Because the library system is so strapped for funding, the summer program was in jeopardy until donations were received from four local businesses and organizations.
"I lucked out," Albright said.
At the Santa Paula Public Library, the program is similar, but the theme this summer is nautical, with underwater sea creatures. Called "Dive into a Good Book," it runs from June 24 through Aug. 23. Every time kids read a book, they get stickers, a bookmark, buttons, games or a book bag.
Usually 250 to 300 children get involved.
Santa Paula is also hosting a kickoff for its program at 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the library. It will be a mix of stories and sing-alongs. Story time during the summer will be 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and will include live music.
The Oxnard and Thousand Oaks libraries have their own program, too. It's called "Amazing Library Kids." Each week kids will be rewarded with small prizes for the books they have read. Anyone who reads 10 books or more gets a paperback book.
At the Oxnard libraries, programs on everything from bugs to magic will be offered for kids every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. from June 22 through July 27.
* FYI: For information on the summer reading programs for children, call the Ventura County Library Services Agency, 652-7540; the Oxnard Library, 385-7500; the Santa Paula Public Library, 525-3615; and the Thousand Oaks Library, (temporarily located at 2400 Willow Lane) 497-6282.