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Computers are a big draw for children at Conway Elementary's summer reading program. Forty to 50 families typically visit the kid-sized library each week. The school has hosted the program for the past five years.
Evelyn Lollman, 6, uses an iPad at the Conway Elementary library in southern Stafford. The summer program allows kids to pick out books, eat snacks and play educational games on the computers and other devices.
Peyton Ferree (left) and friend Justin Jenkins, both 8, look over a book during a visit to the weekly Conway Elementary summer library program.
Reeves and Anderson Oakman settled on their elementary school's library floor with plates of hot dogs and chips.
Soon, the search would begin for the last few sports books that the brothers hadn't yet read.
Both activities were appealing, but what were they really looking forward to?
"To eat the most snacks we can," said Reeves, 9, Anderson, 7, agreed.
Summer break doesn't mean that students at Conway Elementary School, in southern Stafford County, must stop reading or eating with classroom pals.
The fifth year of the school's summer library hours started last week, giving kids the chance to pick out as many books as they want, eat snacks, visit with friends and play educational games on the computers and iPads.
"This is just the best thing," said mom Lisa Oakman, who has brought her family for the past three summers, including 14-month-old daughter Eleanor. "It's just a nice way to stay plugged into school so when they come back, it's not a shock."
This year, a tight budget forced cuts to Stafford summer school programs. Conway librarian Janice Raspen was worried about getting food and educational experiences to kids on free and reduced-price lunches.
The school system is paying for a bus to pick up more than 30 kids from nearby neighborhoods for the five Thursdays, and they get to spend about an hour at the library.
"That's the big thing--we want them to be reading more," Raspen said. "We want them to have books in their hands."
Forty to 50 families also typically visit the kid-sized library each week, at the school off Primmer House Road, near the Leeland Road VRE Station.
Raspen got the idea five years ago from an email group. She said Conway's administration was all for setting up the program.
Now, postcards let families know they can spend their Thursday afternoons at the library.
Haley White, 6, couldn't wait to go back to her school after finishing kindergarten. Excited to receive mail, she made sure mom Angelique White held on to the postcard all week.
"Because I really wanted to go!" exclaimed Haley, who carried a stack of books to the front desk.
"This one I might be able to read myself," Haley said, pointing to a pink Disney "Happy Birthday, Princess!" book. "I'm still learning. Sometimes I read in my head."
The library's 20 iPads are just as popular as the shelves full of books This past year, Conway's PTA used a grant to buy the cart full of the electronic tablets that are used in classrooms and the computer lab.
And the pint-sized kids knew more about using the digital devices than many adults.
After choosing their books, sisters Kera Halstead, 5, and Kayla, 8, carried two iPads to a round table.
"You probably already know how to use it," said grandmom Helen Brennan as they walked over.
And the two girls certainly did, quickly swiping the screen to find folders of games about math or healthy eating, like "Feed the Monster."
Kera giggled when she selected the hot peppers, causing steam to come out of the digital monster's ears. Meanwhile, healthy foods made the monster happier.
Brennan loved that Conway's library catered to students, and the girls already knew where to find the books they wanted.
"With this library being open, we don't have to go to England Run," she said of the regional library in southern Stafford. "This should have been something that was done years ago."
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975