Last week, during a trip to Springfield, we stopped at Barnes and Noble. As a new mother, I was instantly drawn to the colorful section of the store that featured row after row of books for children of all ages. I dreamed of purchasing a variety of reading materials for Sophie and then selecting one or two books to read to her before tucking her into bed at night.
A love of reading and books was instilled in me as a young child. I remember visiting the old Cassville Library on Main Street. I attended story time there as a youngster and continued to check out books from the facility throughout the years. I loved the musty smell of that old library, and I thoroughly enjoyed browsing the shelves of books that lined every corner of the building. Although I have not taken a book out from the Cassville Library in some time, I still carry a library card in my purse, and even though the new Cassville Library smells much fresher than the old building, I still enjoy walking through the book shelves and scanning the titles to see if there is anything new I am interested in reading.
Over 800 registered borrowers currently utilize the Cassville facility, and circulation has increased over 16 percent at the local branch over the last three years. Last year, 1,200 youngsters attended summer reading programs at the Cassville Library and checked out more than 6,400 books. The library not only offers recreational materials but gives children a reason to read during the summer, which has been proven to help students retain more of the information they learned during the school year.
Last year, the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library, which operates 10 branches including the one located in Cassville, was forced to cut the amount of money spent on books, periodicals, DVDs, videos, CDs and other library materials. Budget cuts were directly related to a state tax law that forced the district to decrease its tax levy from 17 cents to 15 cents. In addition to reducing budgeted amounts for library materials, the district was forced to reduce the amount of money set aside for programs.
This year, the Cassville Library will rely more heavily on the community to help provide prizes for the summer reading program, which over 230 local kids signed up for last year. By reaching reading goals, children who sign up for the reading program earn awards, which often range from gift certificates to toys. Local businesses, organizations and individuals are invited to donate prizes, coupons and gift certificates for this year's program. Cash donations, which will be used to purchase prizes, will also be accepted. Any donation is appreciated.
In today's economy, many families cannot afford to shop at Barnes and Noble or any other book store. Today, more than ever, parents rely on the free services offered at local libraries to share the joy of reading with their children. The summer reading program is just one way that kids can become more acquainted with the local library and all the free services it has to offer, and small prizes and incentives encourage children to read.
In just a few years, I plan to take Sophie to story time at the Cassville Library. I also plan to teach her how to select books and sign up for a library card so that she can check them out herself. She may even want to sign up for the summer reading program. I imagine that a lot of Cassville community members have also shared the joy of reading with their children and grandchildren at the Cassville Library. Donations to this year's summer reading program will allow even more families to experience that joy together.