Emillo Roman, 16, a junior at Meade High School, reads William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the newly expanded library at the Fort Meade Teen Center. A $2,500 grant from the Walmart Bright Spot Reading Initiative Program was used to purchase new books, bookshelves and bean bags to enhance the reading space.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Thanks to a new initiative that promotes the love of reading, Emillo Roman spends at least three hours a week reading poetry and the plays of William Shakespeare at the Fort Meade Teen Center.

Both the Teen Center and the Middle School program at the Youth Services Center each received a $2,500 grant from the Walmart Bright Spot Reading Initiative in late April. The funds are being used to create a space for books, magazines and newspapers, along with some comfortable chairs so young people can sit and enjoy the materials.

Alonzo Coley, facility director for the Teen Center and Middle School program, applied for the grant in mid-March. He thought the grant would be a good way to enhance the reading habits of youths in both programs.

William Morris, a homework assistant at the Teen Center, and Caitlyn Mullins, a homework assistant at the Youth Services Center, each created a space for a revamped library at their respective facilities.

"We wanted to encourage kids to read, to get them away from video games," Morris said. "We wanted to motivate them to look at books and [read] what appeals to them."

Morris surveyed teens to find out what books they wanted to include in the new library.

The Teen Center library has more than 100 books from a variety of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, technology, biography, self-help and classics. The library also includes magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Time, Entertainment Weekly and National Geographic.

With the new reading initiative, the Teen Center's year-old book club, which previously consisted of about four teens and a 30-book library, has improved and expanded, said Coley. Today, there are about 15 teens in the book club who use the center's library.

"We thought this would be the easiest way to get kids to read," Coley said.

During the last few weeks of the school year, Emillo, a junior at Meade High School, began reading the poetry collection "A Poem A Day," edited by Karen McCosker and Nicholas Albery, and essays by Carl Sandburg.

"I like the rhythm of poems and how the author will make a large story into something small," the 16-year-old said. "The author grasps art and nature in a couple of lines."

Mullins used the grant to purchase new bookshelves, book lights and an assortment of new titles for the center's television room. She redesigned the room to include space for reading and bean bags.

"Before, we didn't have the ability to make an inviting area to read," Mullins said. "The kids will hang out here. It's cool to read now."

The middle school students enjoy reading fantasy books, horror titles, short story collections and diary books, Mullins said.

The new reading room is open to youths year-round who are registered with the Youth Services Center.

Thirteen-year-old Rowland Smith said the new reading room provides a quiet place to enjoy books.

"You can relax and stuff," Rowland said. "People are quiet and respectful."

An eighth-grader at MacArthur Middle School, Rowland said reading gives him a chance to "explore new worlds" and use his imagination.

Both centers are logging the number of hours youths read to select winners for a Barnes & Noble Nook, an e-reader, at the end of the quarter.

A second grant of $5,000 is expected to promote reading during the school year, said Coley.

Page last updated Fri July 1st, 2011 at 10:38