McDonald library has kids swapping video games for books | Washington County News

McDONALD – It might not be an easy task to get a 10-year-old away from a video game and invested in a book, but Heritage Public Library’s summer reading programs are doing exactly that. The programs, designed to encourage students to continue learning throughout the summer, offer different activities and challenges aimed at keeping children engaged in mentally stimulating tasks.

“We engage the kids throughout the summer so they don’t lose their skills or their literacy level,” Mary Duranti, director of Heritage Public Library, said while adding programs like these prevent summer slide, or the tendency of students to lose information they’ve learned over the summer recess.

According to Duranti, parents are reporting their children are reading more outside of the program times and some have even become more social.

Christal Turk of Hickory, whose 8-year-old son Caleb is enrolled in the program, said the results could not have been better.

“I enrolled him because he’s very much into video games, and I wanted him to do more reading this summer,” Turk said. “We chose the Heritage library because he has school friends here from Fort Cherry and the change I’ve seen in him, he’s very social now, he participates in the classes, which is something I’ve never seen him do. It’s unbelievable.”

The sessions last from 10 a.m. to noon and have been held on Fridays since July 7. They are free to all students in kindergarten through fifth grade, with the last one taking place this week.

On Friday, students learned about bridge construction and were able to make their own model bridge. Representatives from i+iconUSA Construction, which paid for the workshop, and Michael A. Baker Engineering educated the kids about the bridge being built in their community for the Findlay Connector portion of the Southern Beltway.

Previous sessions included representatives from Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, who taught the importance of stress management and making good decisions. Another session had state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll Township, discussing how to build a better world through legislation.

All of the programs held throughout the summer highlight different aspects of Pennsylvania’s statewide initiative for libraries called PA Forward. By providing additional resources on health, finances, and civic and social literacies, libraries across the state can better serve their communities.

For 10-year-old Hong Chem, who is learning English as a second language, this type of outreach from the library could not be more beneficial, as the programs have provided an added bonus of not only getting him to read in English, but speaking it amongst his peers as well.

“Preschool I just stayed shy,” Chem said after reflecting about his first time in the American school system. “In here, I speak more English, here I can write English.”

With a response like that, Duranti believes the programs are doing immense amounts of good for the community and the results show that children truly can take up an interest in reading if given the opportunity.

“One mother said to me ‘Mary, I don’t know what you did to light a fire under these kids, but they are reading like you wouldn’t believe’ and the kids have come and they’ve been engaged,” Duranti said.

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