Though you’re more likely to catch today’s kids with their faces buried in a smartphone as opposed to a book, libraries in the Los Angeles area are doing their part to give kids every opportunity to fall in love with reading. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Los Angeles County has introduced some new measures to help kids discover a love of reading, including working with the local school systems to automatically sign every student up for a library card, eliminating late fees for anyone under the age of 21, and allowing youngsters who currently have any overdue book fees to pay off these balances by reading more.
Leilany Medina, an 11-year-old aspiring librarian, was one of the first kids in the area to take advantage of the new policies. Last week, she turned up at the East Los Angeles Library to “read off” her $4 balance.
"You tell them you'll read and they'll sign you in and you start," Medina, who is in fifth grade, told the Los Angeles Times. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.”
The program, which kicked off in June, allows young patrons to work off $5 of fees per hour of reading and has already seen tremendous results. According to Darcy Hastings, the county's assistant library administrator for youth services, the library system has already managed to reinstate 3500 previously blocked accounts because of its new “Read Away” policy. (Any account owing $10 or more in fees is automatically suspended.) Though it might not seem like a ton of money, owing even just a few dollars can be enough to dissuade a child from tapping the library as a resource for learning.
"When charges accrue on a young person's account, generally, they don't pay the charges and they don't use the card," Hastings said. "A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services."
Aleah Jurnecka, the children’s librarian at East L.A. Library, says that they’re seeing at least 100 students per week come in to "Read Away" their fees—and Medina is a prime example. Though she, too, loves computer games and uses the internet for homework, her voracious love of reading makes her stand out among her peers.
"She's using some words at home that other kids her age don't know if they're using tablets and not building their vocabulary," Yeimi Cortez, Medina’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times.