BRADENTON -- With about 15 minutes to spare in the Central Library after checking out some books, six-year-old Willow Ramdass-Boom and her aunt Maryann Ramdass poked their heads into the Literacy Expo.
Walking past a table of books set up by the Early Learning Coalition, Willow stopped at a book called "Maleficent," which featured a cover photo from the movie of the same name. Willow liked the movie so she looked through the book.
"We come to get books," Maryann said. "Reading sparks interest, imagination and creativity."
Monday's event was designed to capitalize on that interest.
The library hosted its first Literacy Expo to highlight some of the programs and activities the library hosts in an attempt to engage children in reading. The new concerted effort comes while the district and other local agencies are taking part in the Grade-Level Reading initiative, focused on ensuring that students are reading on grade level by the time they are in third grade.
"We realized this summer we had some many things going on at the library that we really want
ed to let the public know about it," said Christopher O'Hara, the youth services coordinator at the library.
Some of the programs available:
Prime-time reading: To work with parent and children schedules, the dinner-hour program includes a meal, followed by a story hour and a librarian-led discussion. A copy of the book is sent home with parents. Seating is limited, so families must register in advance for the six-week program.
Reading with Ringling Bros: This new program springs from a partnership with Feld Entertainment. If students read five books, or a total of 25 hours, they can earn a rewards club card and a voucher to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey show between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10, 2016.
The two-hour event on Monday also included a showcase from the South Florida museum, where students were able to investigate bones, teeth and shells as part of "Megalodons, Mammoths & Mastodons." Whole Child Manatee and MCR Health Services were also part of Monday's event.
A stickerbook caught the attention of three-year-old Titus Zimmerman. He was at the event with his mother, Heather Zimmerman, who said the importance of reading and literacy cannot be overstated.
"I'm always looking for stuff," Heather said, as she helped Titus lay a sticker down correctly. "He's got the interest."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.