Teenagers who participate in the McKinley Memorial Library's summer reading program are staying up late, looking at the night sky, skulking around with nocturnal creatures and simply being creepy this summer.
These ominous activities are part of the program theme, ''Own the Night,'' a nationwide topic with the goal of encouraging young people to read.
''Kids are enthusiastic not only about reading but about the different performers we have coming in,'' said Kimberly Garrett, McKinley Library children's librarian. ''Our program is also spreading literacy over the summer, which is our main goal.''
Kerri Rickard of Niles, left, transforms Ashley Ellwood of Niles into a zombie using special make-up during the ‘‘Zombies own the Night’’ program held at McKinley Memorial Library.
The teen summer reading program, for students in grades sixth through 12, offers a different activity at 2 p.m. each Thursday at the library, Garrett said. In addition to the weekly programs, students are asked to read at least once during each hour of the night for a total of 12 hours and to keep a log of what they are reading and when. When they bring their completed logs to the library each week, students can get certificates for free ice cream cones from McDonald's, and free items from Manfredi's pizza, Taco Bell and Waffle House.
Participants can get prizes up to four times during the summer and be entered into a drawing for a grand prize.
The theme for the summer program is a national incentive encouraged by the Collaborative Summer Reading Program, a consortium of states that work together to bring high-quality summer reading program materials for children at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries. The summer reading program in Niles is free of charge to all participants, Garrett said.
By combining resources and working together with a contracted vendor, libraries can purchase posters, reading logs, bookmarks, certificates and other items for the programs at a significant savings, according to the CSLP. The CSLP was first formed in 1987 in Minnesota with 10 regional library systems working together to develop a reading program for children with one central theme that enabled them to share artwork and incentives to promote reading. Today several state libraries join the program each summer.
Workshops were held throughout the Northeast Ohio Regional Library Systems several months prior to the launch of the summer reading programs once school is out for the season, Garrett said.
For Garrett, this means sharing ideas with librarians from throughout the area as well as seeing children get enthusiastic about reading even though they aren't in school.
''I think the biggest thing is I get to see a lot more faces than I get to see throughout the school year,'' Garrett said.
Working on her third summer reading program and taking the lead for the second year in a row, Garrett said she is enjoying this year's theme.
''I love this theme because there are so many ways you can go with it,'' Garrett said. ''The zombie thing is huge, and by using it we are able to incorporate all the things that teens are into right now.''
Some of the upcoming teen programs that incorporate the theme include Thursday's murder mystery party; Rick Smith, a well-known illusionist who has performed on the Ellen Show, Sharktank and is in the Guiness Book of World Records will perform July 12; a Rock the Night talent show will be held July 26; and the reading program finale on Aug. 2 will be a Nightcrawlers Ball, with participants invited to dress as any creature they want. The finale will feature make-up artists, Kerry Rickard and Joe Glenn.
''For the first two hours, they (students) can get transformed into something scary,'' Garrett said.
In addition to the teen program, the children's programs for ages 2 to 5 and kindergarten through fifth grade, is based on the theme, Dream Big.
''Dream Big can talk about hopes and dreams and wishes,'' Garrett said.
Dream Big programs include a visit from Niles police and fire departments who Garrett described as ''heroes of the night.'' The program also will include a campfire cookout and ''creeps on the lawn,'' June 27; a visit from the Akron Zoo with nocturnal animals July 11; and a pajama party Aug. 1 in the auditorium.
Dream Big programs are held at 2 p.m. each Wednesday.
In addition to the children and teen programs, the library also hosts storytime programs for younger children, including children 18 to 36 months at 10 a.m. each Monday and preschool storytime for ages 3 to 5 at 10 a.m. each Tuesday.
All programs are free of charge and are held in the auditorium at the McKinley Memorial. For information on the summer reading and children's storytime programs, call the library children's room at 330-652-1704, Ext. 214.