Children’s librarian Penny Berube, whose pilot summer reading program is taking off

Summertime at Dracut’s Moses Greeley Parker Library is anything but easy for children’s librarian Penny Berube–and that’s just the way she likes it. Debbie Hovanasian photo
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DRACUT — Ask Dracut children’s librarian Penny Berube if she loves her job. She’ll go over to her office door, point to a sign and smile. It reads: I love my job.

You really don’t have to ask that question of Berube or read the sign, because her smile says it all. On a recent rainy summer day — a busy one at the library — Berube sat at her desk in the children’s room at Moses Greeley Parker Library. The students know her well and frequently came up to ask questions. The former Billerica public school teacher and former librarian at Campbell Elementary School fields the questions with efficiency, a smile and a little help from her high-school volunteers, whom she praises.

Many of the students were there to sign up at the “Travel Agency” for a passport to the summer reading programs — Wee Reads for infants and toddlers and One World, Many Stories, for ages 2 through grade 6.

In between questions from her young world travelers, Miss Penny answered five more questions about summer reading in Dracut.

Q: Tell us about One World, Many Stories.

A: This is the first year that Massachusetts has participated in this national program, which is produced by the Summer Reading Collaborative based in Iowa. Massachusetts always had their own program, but this year all 50 states are using the same theme, with the same materials and programs. I have a huge manual that they gave us with all kinds of ideas, but each library can adapt their own ideas into program.

In the program, children ages 3 through grade 2 get to fly to Africa, travel across North America, romp through South America, visit Asia, go off to Europe, and tour island countries, all without leaving Dracut.

Q: Do you expect more worldly readers in town after One World, Many Stories?

A: I would hope they become much more aware of other countries and other cultures. They will have a chance to see how we’re the same and how we are different.

Students in grades 3 through 6 are offered I’d Rather be Cruising, Dewey’s Amazing Race, Super Cold Science, and Crafty Kids Go Global.

Q: How do these programs connect with this age group?

A: I try to get age-appropriate programs for the older kids, as that age group tends to fall by the wayside. I want to keep them coming to the library during that age period with fun things that they can do. We have a lot of competitions because that is what kids that age really enjoy; they like competition. But they can also handle winning or losing; it’s all in fun. They also like the science programs a lot, and that especially connects with the boys.

Q: What is the most popular summer children’s activity?

A: We have huge groups for everything. On Mondays it’s the toddlers, and it’s packed. On Tuesday, it’s the performers and I have to give out tickets to that because there are so many people interested — we’ll have over 150 — and not enough room.

We’re having knitting classes for the first time this year and I already have at least a dozen signed up; even the moms are interested. For the older kids, grades 3 through 6, we have age-appropriate activities that are always packed. On Thursdays, it’s ages 3 through grade 2, and that will be packed, too. I never have small groups, which is wonderful. It shows a lot for the town and for the parents.

Q: This library is a beautiful building, the children’s reading program is excellent, and it’s a popular destination today for families. Does that give you a positive outlook for literacy in Dracut?

A: Yes, we see so many parents taking their children here and it’s great. And it’s not just the moms; we see a lot of dads today taking their toddlers to story time. Also, Dr. (School Superintendent Stacy) Scott and Dr. Sonia Diaz are really pushing literacy within Dracut and I’m thrilled about that. They’ve encouraged all Dracut children to join the summer reading program.

We had a family-literacy presentation in June on a busy night when there were five school events going on, and we still had about 100 people. Dr. Scott wants me to be part of the new teacher orientation in August, so teachers know about the programs at the library. It’s wonderful that we can all work together like this, and it will be great for the town of Dracut.

For more information on the summer reading program, visit www.dracutlibrary.org. Registration to travel the world through books continues through July.