The Pickerington Public Library is closing in on completion of another year of working to enhance youth reading skills and enjoyment of literature through its book club program.

On Feb. 15, eight second- and third-graders from Pickerington elementary schools gathered around a table in the meeting room of the Pickerington Public Library's main branch to discuss chapters from Jeff Brown's "Flat Stanley" and "Stanley and the Magic Lamp."

In addition to recounting their previous month's reading assignment, members of the library's 2-3 Book Club shared general thoughts about the books before breaking into a card game, led by Library Youth Services Manager Cathy Burden.

Afterwards, some of the club members discussed their interest in books, while Burden helped one of the regular attendees find books that might appeal to him based on stories he'd enjoyed over the past five months.

"I love books, don't get me wrong," said Giavanna Smalko, a 9-year-old who joined the club for the first time Feb. 15. "I just wanted to join because there's questions about the books, and I can answer them.

"I really love books."

Not everyone who joins the book club starts with a strong affinity for literature.

That's one of the primary reasons Burden established a book club for students in third, fourth and fifth grades in 2011.

Burden and library officials thought the clubs would provide a relaxed, fun environment for young people to be introduced to different book genres and build the comfort levels and skills reading with nurturing lifelong readers.

"When I started it, it was something I knew other libraries had," Burden said. "A lot of times, when we got the kids started in the second grade, they would stay through the fifth."

To better serve interests and varied reading levels, the library split the original book club in 2012 into two, with one serving second- and third-graders, and another that served fourth- and fifth-graders.

In 2017, a third -- The Middle -- was established to cater to middle school students.

"All the book clubs meet once a month," Burden said. "We go through the books and have discussions.

"More than quick-reading just to get through it, we try to get them to read to get details for discussion."

The clubs meet from late-September through March.

After that, the library transitions into its summer reading clubs which are meant to help bolster youth literacy and keep readers active during summer breaks from school.

"They find books they probably wouldn't generally find," Burden said. "If they like a series, they pick up the others.

"You just build a rapport with them, and if they come in during the summer I ask them what they're reading. I get suggestions from them, too, because they can tell me what's popular."

Smalko's grandfather, Rick Clark, said he brought Smalko to the Feb. 15 program in hopes it would further facilitate his granddaughter's already strong reading skills and interests.

He added he hoped it would help her read new books, as well as to read them in new ways, and possibly begin to develop a path toward possible careers and hobbies.

"One of the benefits was that she could read and discuss the chapters as she goes," Clark said. "She (goes through) bags and bags of books so fast. This is a way to slow her down a little and get more out of it."

Although this year's book club programs are almost complete, Burden pointed to other opportunities for youths to read simply by getting a library card.

She said summer reading programs would begin soon, and that the book clubs will be back next fall.

Additional information about library book clubs and reading programs is available at www.pickeringtonlibrary.org, or by calling the library at 614-837-4104.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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