FORT JACKSON, SC -- Once upon a time, long before video games and the Internet ruled America's pastimes, storytelling and reading were the traditional ways families stayed entertained.

There were no computers, no MP3 players, just the written word and tale-telling conversations.

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But instead, a book with a friendly face.

It's that traditional experience the staff of the Thomas Lee Hall Library hope to recreate for Fort Jackson community members as they partake in the library's summer reading programs.

This summer, all of the programs revolve around the same theme, "Voyage to Book Island," in which storybook characters travel to sandy beaches, join pirates in treasure hunting or swim with sea animals in the vast oceans.

Kids younger than 8 can wear their pajamas and cuddle under a blanket as they listen to their favorite beachy bedtime stories during Sleepy Storytime every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Kids of all ages are invited to listen to literary favorites, dance and shake out their sillies and make crafts during Family Storytime every Friday starting at noon.

Teens can meet up with their friends for book discussions, "game nights," and to create "fabulous" and "frugal" summer crafts every Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Adults can even get together to socialize and stimulate their minds during bimonthly book discussions with the Victory Readers book club. If that isn't incentive enough, all patrons can enter a contest to win prizes just by registering and keeping a log of every book they read this summer.

"Our approach to the programming is 'literacy, from womb to tomb'" said Cecilia Hem Lee, the Youth Services librarian. "We offer programs for all ages, but because we understand that the Army family moves together, we try to keep the programs close together so that families can stay together."

"We understand that when Mom is driving to the library, she's not going to make two separate trips," Hem Lee continued. "So we create programs that the entire family can enjoy, incorporating activities that involve the older kids as well as the younger children."

What Hem Lee also understands, she said, is that even though parents are children's first teachers, they are also very busy. So she packages family literacy programs that can easily be reproduced at home. Copies of every book she shares during the programs are available for checkout. She ensures that the supplies required to make each craft consists of everyday items that can be found in any household, like scrap paper, glitter, masking tape and other school supplies.

"We also encourage parents to check out different types of books at a time because different kids have different interests, but if they read books together as a family, they will share those interests," she continued. "And through reading, they're going to explore so many different aspects of cultures and life itself."

Stacy Umbleby, who has been bringing her 5-year-old son, Colton, to Family Storytime every week for the past two months, said she appreciates that the library offers programs promoting literacy among children so young.

"I was never was a big book reader," Umbleby said. "So I like that Colton is getting interested in books and that he's being introduced to it early.

"I can see that he learns from the repetition of the stories," she said. "(Hem Lee) usually reads the same stories every week or she'll have at least two familiar stories from the week prior, and he knows them so well, he will say the words before she does."

Stephen Ferguson, who brings his three children, ages 13, 6 and 1, to Family Storytime, said the programs offer great opportunities for his kids to interact with other children and encourage them to continue reading throughout the summer. He said the programs inspire him to read as well, which allows him to be his children's best role model.

"Education starts at home," Ferguson said. "Children need to see their parents reading. If they see us modeling it, then they'll want to do it too."

For more information about the library's summer reading programs, contact Hem Lee at 751-5589.

Page last updated Thu July 15th, 2010 at 08:19