Almanac

Community - August 20, 2014

Library offers lessons, lunch for local kids

by Tiffany Lam

This summer, the Atherton Library provided more than books for young students. As part of a program called "Library Learning Camps," the library helped second- and third-graders from local communities work on developing reading and writing skills.

The San Mateo County Library system, in partnership with the YMCA, launched the eight-week program this year at five libraries across the county. The target students for the Atherton program were applicants from Garfield Elementary School in North Fair Oaks.

The camps are a response to the problem of low reading proficiency among many elementary school kids, said Carine Risley, library services manager at the Atherton Library.

From 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the library, students studied reading and writing with library and YMCA staff. During one session, kids learned how to write their own haikus.

"I like to come and play, do exercises, and read books," said second-grader Itzel. "I'm also learning how to read in English."

Itzel is one of many bilingual students in the program who have become more comfortable reading and writing in English, according to Veronica Caballero, community program assistant at the Atherton Library.

Following their daily lessons, the kids were provided free lunches. A typical lunch includes fresh fruit, milk, and other healthful options.

"Free and reduced-cost lunch ends once the school year does," noted Ms. Risley. "We want to make sure the kids aren't hungry. You can't learn on an empty stomach."

Moving beyond library walls, the students went on two field trips — to the San Jose Tech Museum and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

"It's great to see their rise in self esteem," noted Ms. Risley. "At the tech museum, two girls who didn't even want to touch anything ended up making their own robots."

"We chose kids based on assessments of their reading levels," noted Ms. Risley. "The capacity for this year's pilot was 20 kids, but we hope to expand that number in the future. It's such a huge need."

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