On June 7, 2012, a fabulous sunny day, the New York Public Library (NYPL) had a kickoff celebration for summer reading at the Seward Park Library.
NYC High School Band: Starting at 10 a.m., a high school band played outside the library. It is a great location for a party since the park is adjacent to the library and the weather was so terrific. The party drew a crowd, and the kids were having a lot of fun running around and playing with our Library Lion mascot and pulling his tail. The sunlight that shone through the trees created a smattering of shade and interesting shadows.
At 11 a.m., Chris Shoemaker, Young Adult Programming Specialist, welcomed everyone to the gathering.
Photo by J. ChangNYPL President Tony Marx: Shoemaker introduced the NYPL President, Dr. Tony Marx. Marx first thanked the library supporters, including City Council, HBO, Target, and the Yankees, among others. He asked the kids what happens if they do not read during the summer. He said that their grades and test scores can decline. He said that parents and librarians do not want kids' literacy levels to decline during the summer due to lack of reading. Kids read a lot of books last summer through the summer reading program.
NYPL is in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Library, and the Department of Education to register people of all ages for summer reading. They are giving kids new library cards and erasing all fines and fees. Dr. Marx stressed that we want kids to return library books so that other kids can read them. We are issuing the new library cards because the library cares about kids' learning and we want kids to grow up and be the people that they want to be. The library is a place where anyone can come and learn about the world. NYPL will be offering over 1,000 programs in its libraries this summer. Having fun and reading go together. That is why he is excited to help launch summer reading.
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Dr. Marx then introduced two teens that attended his old high school who combined read over 500 books last summer. One of them said that kids could win a lot of cool prizes by participating in summer reading. She won an ipod nano and had the opportunity to attend a Yankees game for free. They wished everyone a great summer.
Photo by J. ChangKidsLIVE presents Jeff Kinney: Julia Chang, Children's Programming Specialist, spoke about KidsLIVE, which is a program which showcases the rich diversity of New York City. It encompasses live theatre, musical performances, and gives kids the opportunity to meet authors and illustrators. She then introduced a speaker who was an author/illustrator, movie producer, and game designer: the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney, who was the original wimpy kid. The library gave out free Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days books to the first 400 kids who came to the summer reading party. I was so happy to hear Jeff Kinney speak, since I know how much kids love his books. Sometimes they are not currently at the library where kids ask for them. The library can have the books sent to kids' neighborhood branch or a branch anywhere in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island.
At 11:30 a.m., KidsLIVE presented Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Kinney said that he was very excited about summer reading, and he was excited to be in NYC, especially since NY was such a part of the Wimpy Kid series. He said that he would talk a bit about how he became an author. He never intended to write for kids; he planned to be a newspaper cartoonist. However, he did not draw well enough for that; he drew like a little kid. He decided to obtain an idea book that he would fill up with ideas. It was a sketch book which took four years to fill with ideas. It took him another four years to write the first Wimpy Kid book. He told the audience that sometimes it takes a long time to achieve personal goals.
The Original Wimpy Kid: As a kid, he was like the star character in the Wimpy Kid books, Greg Heffley. He used to hide from the swim coach, and he ate his sister's lip gloss because it smelled fruity. One year, he attended New York Comic Con, and he showed his portfolio to someone who liked it; that meeting helped launch his career as an author. However, he was not a hit instantly. During his first year of book signings (after spending eight years creating the first Wimpy Kid book), no one showed up. Then, one day, he had a book signing in a very hot room, and 600 people showed up. It was so hot that a little girl vomited right next to him. He said that this moment signified to him that he had made it as a writer.
Jeff Kinney said that the Wimpy Kid books had caused much excitement in his life. He was invited to visit the White House. One week previous to speaking at NYPL, he had been in Sydney, Australia. He has had the opportunities to make movies of the Wimpy Kid books. One of the coolest things he has experienced is to have a balloon of Greg Heffley in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. This has been a lot of fun for him. He advised the kids to nurture their ideas and to persevere with their dreams. He said that his books have appealed to reluctant readers.
He liked to read a lot when he was growing up. His favorite authors include Judy Blume and J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit. He also read fantasy, humor and comics, and now he is an author/illustrator. He told kids that reading changes the brain and opens up new worlds that kids might not know exist. He told kids that any reading counts, including newspapers, magazines, books and the Internet. He encouraged kids to read as much as possible this summer.
Audience Questions for Jeff Kinney: Jeff Kinney then opened up the floor for the kids to ask him questions.
1) Was the second book as hard to write as the first? Kinney said that the first book took him eight years; now, it takes him nine months to write a Wimpy Kid book. He is currently working on a Valentine's Day book.
2) What was the first game that you created? It was a funbrain game on the website.
3) What did it feel like to see your books come to life as movies? It was weird to meet the kids who would play my characters in the movies.
4) Why did you not make a movie of The Last Straw? Actually, we combined two books into a movie and called it Dog Days.
5) When will your next book debut? The Third Wheel is coming out on November 13, 2012. A third wheel is like when you go out on a date with someone and another person comes along. You call the other person a "third wheel."
6) When did you start writing your books? In January of 1998, before many kids who read my books were born.
7) Why is Greg still in middle school? One kid said that since teachers did not like him; Greg was being held back. Kinney said that Greg is a cartoon character who is trapped in middle school. The best cartoons do not age.
8) How many books do you plan to write? Ten, at least, but he hopes to keep going because this is a lot of fun for him.
9) What did you do before you became an author? Kinney was a medical software engineer.
Reading of Olivia Saves the Circus: Chang then introduced Watson, a clown from the Big Apple Circus. The clown juggled three colored pieces of cloth, then twirled a silver stick between two silver sticks. He then read a story to the crowd, Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer. There was a fold-out illustration in the center of the book with Olivia jumping on a trampoline. Flying Olivia was the queen of the trampoline, and that's how Olivia saved the circus.
Shoemaker concluded the speakers for the 2012 Summer Reading kickoff at the Seward Park library. He asked if everyone was excited about summer reading. He mentioned the other programs that would be occurring at the library that day, including Lion Dancers in the courtyard at 12 p.m., Birds of Prey at 12:30 p.m., a 3-D printer in the teen area of the library, manga drawing, etc. There was also free pizza for participants.
Last year, I did not attend the Summer Reading kickoff at Seward Park, but when I saw the photograph of the dragon from the celebration on our website, I wished that I had. So, I was definitely very excited to see the lion dancers in the park. Also, being at the celebration caused me to reminisce about being a solo preschool librarian in the middle of Philadelphia's Chinatown.
Photo by J. ChangChinese Lion Dancers: At 12 p.m., musicians in matching white and red outfits with Chinese characters played cymbals and drums outside the Seward Park library. Red is the color of prosperity and good fortune in China. They also brought out tall red flags with Chinese characters on them.
Then, the first lion came out. It was red and gold, and consisted of two dancers — one in front with a heavy dragon head, and another dancer held up the back of the lion. The lions were adorable; they blinked their eyes and opened and closed their mouths. The lion would rear up (the front dancer would jump onto the shoulders of the back dancer), and the creature would jump around, rub its foot with its head, and stop and look at the audience.
As if that was not intriguing and awesome enough, the second lion came out. This one was purple and also consisted of two dancers. As the red-and-gold lion jumped onto a platform and danced around, and the dancer in the front part of the purple dragon climbed a pole and danced around while the dancer from the back held up the rest of the costume with a pole. At one point, a member of the band that made music during the entire dance of the two lions gave the lions rolled up red banners to hold in their mouths. With a bang, both lions let the banners unravel to reveal Chinese characters. Colored confetti sprinkled through the air. Then, the purple dragon climbed down from the pole, the red-and-gold dragon jumped off of the platform, and they danced in unison facing the audience. The dancing lions were awesome beyond belief in the intermittent shade that the trees provided just outside of the Seward Park library in lower Manhattan.
Summer Reading for Adults: Summer reading is for adults and parents too! Sign up for summer reading together and make literacy a family affair this June, July, and August. Read with your kids and check out the latest titles and good ol' favorites we have in our approximately 90 locations for adults, teens and kids. If you do not find what you are looking for, it may be at another location, and we can have it sent to the most convenient library for you to get to, absolutely free of charge!
Newly Revamped Summer Reading Website: The summer reading website has some fabulous changes this year. People can sign up for summer reading online with their favorite branch and place items on hold from the summer reading book list directly from the summerreading.org website with their username and PIN.
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