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Volunteers Make Summer Reading Program a Hit

A group of teenage volunteers are making summer reading a better experience for younger students.

The volunteers at the s summer reading program are all Melissa Stilo's children want to talk about when they return home after a session. The teen role models, she said, make summer reading more fun and engaging for her young kids.

"They really enjoy reading with the teenage girls," Stilo said. "The girls make it fun."

A group of about 30 volunteers have provided a jump-start to the reading program this year. The volunteers, mostly teenagers, work with children aged two to 10, picking out books, reading with them and even making bracelets and other crafts during summer reading sessions.

The volunteer program hasn't been as large in the past, but more interest this year allowed the library staff to move the reading program to the community room and expand the amount of activities. For example, rather than bringing in a sheet that says how much a child has read and having it simply stamped by a librarian, volunteers actually take the time to read a new book with the kids at the library.

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The result, Stilo said, is a very improved summer reading program for Harrison kids.

"(In year's past) it was basically a trip to the library and nothing else," said Stilo, who said her children have participated in the reading program for a few years now. "Now it's you are picking out books together, you're interacting, the girls are here, you're reading with them—they don't want to leave."

For the teenage volunteers, the feeling can be mutual. Rosemarie Belfiore, 14, and Amanda Almeida, 15, have been coming to the library three times a week this summer to read with kids. They said creating a connection with younger kids has made for a great experience this summer.

"It reminds me of my childhood, the stories we read are also the ones I read," said Almeida. "It helps to connect to them, so we see their reaction to stories I used to know when we were kids."

Belfiore said being a teenager gives volunteers the chance to connect with kids in a way that is different than adults.

"I think it's good to have someone closer to their age so they might feel comfortable speaking to them," she said. "If they tried to speak to an adult some children might get insecure about saying the wrong thing and might not talk as much."

The Harrison Library Summer Reading Program includes about 25 kids and runs from July 7 to August 9.

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