Library rolls out red carpet for young visitors

It was hard to tell who was having more fun at the downtown library Wednesday — the librarian or the children who came to have lunch with her.

“I am so excited to see all of your faces here today,” said Shannon Peterson, the young people’s librarian for the Port Orchard Branch of the Kitsap Regional Library, as she greeted the second group of third-graders from Sidney Glen Elementary to head “To The Library” for a tour.

Branch manager Kathleen Wilson said this is the first full year for the program, which aims to spark a love for the library and reading by busing over a group from each school to visit with Peterson, learn about what the library offers and get a library card.

Wilson said Burley Glenwood became the first school to send kids earlier this month, and out of the 50 students who came, “40 received their first library cards.”

To make sure the library has cards ready for the children when they arrive, Peterson visits each school about two weeks before its scheduled visit to hand out applications for the parents to fill out and return.

On Wednesday, the cards were handed out with a generous amount of fanfare, the group clapping as each child picked up a bag with their new card, bookmarks, pencils and a brand-new paperback book.

“We chose to give you each one of a series of five books by Tomi DePaola,” said Peterson. “That way we you’re done, you can trade with your friends to read the rest of the books.”

Wilson said the Port Orchard Kiwanis Club donated $4,700 to the program so each child could have a new book to take home, and that DePaola’s “26 Fairmount Avenue” series based on his childhood in 1930’s Connecticut seemed like the “perfect series for our project.”

In addition to receiving books, Wilson said each child receives a sack lunch prepared by their school, which is also made possible by the support of the program’s sponsors. Along with the Port Orchard Friends of the Library and the South Kitsap School District, Wilson said the other donors were Uptown Mike’s Hot Dogs, Soroptimist International of Port Orchard, The Saints Car Club, local author Debbie Macomber, Suldan’s Boat Works, Frederick Chiropractic, and Printing Services.

For Tuesday’s lunch, the sun was shining and the temperature reached a balmy 71 degrees, so the children sat outside to enjoy their lunch with Peterson in the grassy park next to the library.

However, Wednesday’s weather was wet and gray, so the group made the most of it by turning out the lights and listening to ghost stories while they ate.

And while obviously fun for both the children and librarians, Wilson said the visits are accomplishing their goal of enticing children to become regular patrons, since she has already seen students from the first groups coming back.

“Some of the Sidney Glen students that visited Tuesday, came right back here after school to check out books,” Peterson added.

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