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Westmoreland kids dig into books in summer reading programs

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

More than 6,000 children are participating in this year's summer reading program through Greensburg Hempfield Area Library to the theme, “Dig Into Reading.”

Although one child may go to five programs and be counted five times, the numbers still indicate that reading can be fun.

With a variety of programs, such as “The Dragon's Cave” and “Dig into an Ancient Egyptian Pyramid,” children from preschoolers to fifth grade have the opportunity to listen to stories and participate in crafts, either at the libraries in Greensburg or Youngwood or at St. Clair Park in Greensburg.

“Our whole point is to try to encourage kids to read,” said Cesare Muccari, director of the library since 1987. “When dealing with kids, one of the most important things a library can do is get to kids early on in their life and make programs fun. We see a spike in children's book circulation in the summer for this reason.”

Muccari, who reads 50 books a year because he started reading young, said the library has been conducting children's programs since 1998. It revamped its children's section in 1997. Muccari has three staff members assigned to the children's department but doubles that number during the summer months.

A theme is developed each year from the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which surveys Pennsylvania librarians about the possibilities. Once the theme is determined, the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library staff goes to work, combing through various titles, determining how long a program should be, figuring out many kids they can accept, how to appeal to each age group and other variables,

“Summer library programs encourage school-age children to maintain their reading level during the summer,” said spokesman Tim Eller of the state Department of Education. “This is especially important for children who are not reading on grade level.”

The summer reading program is free and open to the public. In addition, the library takes programs into area day care centers and schools.

Stage Right! Theatre Company's “Books Come Alive” program — which is offered throughout Westmoreland, Allegheny and Fayette counties, as well as in Johnstown and West Virginia — works with the library to complement the “Dig into Reading” theme.

This summer, the troupe will perform “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel,” “The Little Engine That Could,” “Let's Do Nothing,” “Bats at the Beach” and “Dog in Boots.”

Chris Orosz, executive director of Stage Right!, said it's a wonderful opportunity for children to use their imaginations.

“It's a great introduction to theater for little kids ...,” she said. “To learn about the subject and to think about reading — it's a great experience for children.”

With that in mind, the Kiwanis International Club of Greensburg did not think twice about renewing its support as a sponsor to the library's Summer Reading Program.

“The mission is to help educate children any way possible so they grow up to be healthy young adults,” said Brian Root, president–elect of the group, which donated $2,500 to the program. “Supporting programs like this is in line with what we believe. This is a great program for the community.”

The Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc. is another organization that provides sponsorship.

“We're very appreciative because (the program) costs money,” Muccari said.

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.