Young readers within the Peninsula Public Library district are creating a reading dynasty as for the second consecutive year children ages 4-12 read the most books in the countywide three-year old winter Monster Jam reading contest.
The kids read nearly 3,000 books from Dec. 10 to Jan. 11. In addition to winning smaller prizes throughout the contest, they earned the grand prize — a visit from a Monster truck — that will be at the library on Jan. 24. In all, 28 libraries and 1,796 children in Nassau took part in the contest.
Carolynn Matulewicz, the children’s librarian, wasn’t going to enter this year’s contest because of the turmoil caused by Hurricane Sandy, but was persuaded by Renee McGrath, manager of Youth Services for the Nassau Library System. “We had a rough start due to many area families recovering from Hurricane Sandy, then within a couple of week the students really started to read,” Matulewicz said.
McGrath said she thought the contest would serve as a diversion from Hurricane Sandy-related problems. “I know the program was very successful last year with some of the schools in Carolynn’s district and I thought it would be a fun distraction,” McGrath said.
The distraction became a mission for the children who participated as 296 kids read at least 10 books and some read more. Throughout the four-week contest period the children won prizes, including a voucher for a free ticket to the monster truck show at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 25.
Lawrence Middle School librarian Lisa Vuliantis said her students are very competitive about who can read the most books. Each class kept reading logs to track which books and how many they read. “I think they were very excited about seeing the monster truck,” she said, explaining the students’ motivation for doing well in the contest.
Vuliantis also believes that participating in the contest created a more conventional environment for children, whose lives had been disrupted by Sandy. “It brought a sense of normalcy back to the kids who are still displaced or having family members living with them,” she said. “It was something to look forward to.”
Getting the students back into a daily reading routine was a positive after the upheaval Sandy caused, said Number Five School reading specialist Victoria Loweree. “The monster jam reading contest got us back into a routine of daily reading and the excitement of the monster truck was a huge motivation,” she said. “It also says a lot for our teachers at the school who really encourage the kids to take part in these activities. I am really proud of them and the students.”
Four more libraries took part in this year’s contest compared to last year, McGrath said. “It grows every year,” she said. “It’s a fun reading program and that monster truck jam is very, very popular.”