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Cortland Free Library’s summer reading program caps season with celebration

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

During the Summer Reading Program Finale Saturday at the Courthouse Park in Cortland, Cortland Free Library Youth Services Librarian Tammy Sickmon shows a hand sewn bag with the numbered tag 44,292, the number of bags volunteers with Green Bag Lady have made.

Nine-year-old Lauryn Darling and her brother, 6-year-old Brenik, challenged each other Saturday to a game like Jenga, only with bigger blocks. It was part of the Summer Reading Program Finale.

Dozens of kids, along with their parents, gathered at Courthouse Park for the end of the summer reading program. As the two children played the giant version of Jenga, the goal was to remove blocks from the stacked tower and then place them on top without knocking over the tower.

Who won isn’t that important; that they took part in the program, again, is, said Christina Darling, their mother.
“It’s really important to keep kids reading all summer,” she said.

Darling said she has seen her children’s reading leap forward from simple books to chapter books during the summer. “They are always reading.”

“You learn lots of new things,” Lauryn said, and she logged 1,016 minutes of reading everything from Tinker Bell to chapter books.

Depending on the age of the child, some kids logged minutes, some pages and even books.

Of the 250 kids, 27 were teens who read an accumulated 60,000 pages.

This year, like last year, the library incorporated an incentive with the SUNY Cortland Red Dragon football team for logging 1,000 or more minutes. “The kids are invited out onto the football field at the first game,” said Tammy Sickmon, youth services librarian.

Lauryn said she is even looking forward to taking part in the program again next year.

For more than 10 years now the Cortland Free Library has been hosting the Summer Reading Program and keeping kids reading during the summer. This year around 250 kids took part in the program, Sickmon said.

The objective of the program is simple. “It’s to keep kids reading during the summer,” said Jacie Spoon, library director.

Studies show that students who read more, read better; they also write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and have better control of complex grammatical constructions, according to the state Education Department.

Spoon said the program is funded through a grant from CNY Arts, as well as donations.

During the finale, kids could pet animals at a petting zoo, play games and check out the Physics Bus. Volunteers with the Green Bag Lady gave out hand-sewn book bags.

Each bag had a tag sewn to the inside with a number on it. One bag that Sickmon showed had the number 44,292, the number of bags the group had given out since it started in 2008 by artist Teresa VanHatten-Granath.

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