“I still do music, I’m still choir director at my church and have lots of fun with it,” says Westbrooks, who has been with the Anniston Public Library since last September, “but my passion and my career is libraries.”
In order to keep kids engaged in reading this summer, the library is doing its part through their annual Summer Reading Program, which kicks off tomorrow. Under the theme “Dream Big – Read,” for students up to age 11, Westbrooks emphasizes the importance of providing incentives for readers of all ages to participate, by holding weekly events and offering prizes for every five books or 250 pages read. The library is also offering a separate summer reading program for teens ages 12-17, themed “Own The Night,” which offers prizes for every 10 books, or 500 pages read. For Westbrooks, however, the biggest reward is when a kid transitions from being a reluctant reader, to a passionate one.
“The most appealing thing to me is … seeing that spark in their eyes when a lot of [children] might not have found something before that they really loved to read, and getting that moment that I get to spend with them and really find something that they just absolutely love,” she says.
The program kicks off June 1 with a musical slumber party at 4 p.m. Students can sign up for the free program online at publiclibrary.cc/summerreading. The program runs through July 14 and is open to all students in Calhoun County, including parents who work in the county.
Below, Westbrooks gives her top five titles that summer readers should definitely include in their rotation.
Junior high and high school students: “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins.
“It’s not very often that a book lives up to its hype,” Westbrooks said of the series that has taken the literary world — and Hollywood — by storm, “but this book definitely does just that. It’s intense, it’s thought-provoking, it’s great for the reluctant readers that have forgotten the joy of reading.” Perfect for young readers who have been saddled with required reading, she added, “It’s a great way for them to rediscover breathtaking suspense.”
3rd through 5th-grade students: “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick.
With more than 500 pages, the book may seem daunting to some, Westbrooks said, but readers will be pleasantly surprised. “It’s one of those cases where the artwork adds to the story, the story adds to the artwork — it’s just a one-of-a-kind read.”
2nd through 3rd-grade students: “Squish: Super Amoeba,” by Jennifer and Matt Holm.
Westbrooks feels that the hilarity of an amoeba who finds himself in all sorts of superhero mixups is the perfect remedy to get young readers out of their “chapter book funk,” combating the transition from picture to chapter books. “Some of them at that point decide they don’t want to read anymore, because it becomes more of a challenge to them,” she said of using the series to refresh tired eyes. “It’s fun and very approachable.”
Kindergarten and first-grade students: “Millie Waits for the Mail,” by Alexander Steffensmeier.
The book about a cow that finds hilarity in scaring the mailman who visits her farm everyday is complemented even more by the vivid pastoral illustrations, Westbrooks said. “There are serene, breathtaking farm pictures in contrast with Millie with her scared face and the mailman hiding in the bushes,” she said. “It’s very fun.”
Pre-K and kindergarten students: “Gallop,” by Rufus Butler Seder
The board book is not only suitable for the rough and tumble life of a toddler, but also comes to life by providing animal sounds and making the creatures move with each turn of the page. “Kids are just enamored by this book,” Westbrooks said. “I’ve actually seen some older kids pick it up and really enjoy flipping these pages. It’s a really great, interactive read.”