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St. Petersburg Library System launches Virtual Summer Reading Program

For the first time the Summer Reading Program is going online, offering access to special programs, books, and performances.

TAMPA, Fla — Though you can't go into Saint Pete's public library branch, that shouldn't stop you from wanting to stick your nose into a new book ... even if its virtually.

For the first time, the Saint Petersburg Library System is offering their Summer Reading Program completely online, with access to a variety of book, special programs, and educational performances from local talent and artists. 

"We have about 11 local artists that we're working with to keep content fresh for kids to view online through our program. There's drumming performances, magic shows, and even science shows," said Mandy Morris, Youth Services Coordinator with the St. Petersburg Library System.

Registering is simple. Once you visit the Summer Reading Program's website, you make your selection, and then you're given a password for further access. You can enter the Mayor's Reading Challenge, join in Reading with the Rays, see content from the S.P.A.R.K. Team, and register to watch virtual performances right on your device at home. 

Denise Ford, the Founder of Camp Quest, enjoys utilizing the Summer Reading Program and sharing its resources with her camp goers. 

"It's a new experience doing this virtually, we're so used to going to the library and going about it that way. But with the pandemic and the kids being at home, I register as myself on the library's website, and connect with the kids and their parents over zoom, we do a screen share and can read, watch the performances and participate in the activities together," said Ford. 

According to the library staff, since April, the usage of their circulating digital materials, such as eBooks and eAudiobooks as well as music, movies, and TV shows have gone up 85 percent compared to April of last year.

Free grab-and-go lunches are available for kids and teens while scho... ols are closed. Monday through Friday at the Main Community Library from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., Johnson Community Library from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and South Community Library from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Parents can access the library's event calendar and latest updates as it relates to safety during the pandemic. 

"We're offering curbside pick up right now as well. Where parents can place holds on books through the library catalog and get a notification of when the materials are ready at our location for pick-up," said Morris.

The Summer Reading Program is fit for kids of all ages, as young as K-5 or early literacy to teenagers. With a virtual teen gaming program for ages 13 to 18 via Discord every Tuesday from 3-6 and every Thursday from 4:30-7. 

To find out more about the program or how to access it you can send an email to spark@stpete.org.

"Having it go virtual this year is  good for parents too! Instead of parents having to be at the library at a specific day or time. You can do this in the comfort of your home on a Saturday night if you wanted to," said Morris. 

As the the city continues to follow CDC guidelines, they're still planning  to provide free meals to children 18 years and younger during the summer break as part of the Summer BreakSpots. The free meals are being served Monday-Friday through Aug. 7 at the Barack Obama Main Community Library, the James W. Johnson Community Library and the South Community Library, among other locations across the city. 

This year the meals are being served as "grab and go"  to keep staff and patrons safe. 

For more information on the Virtual Summer Reading Program or Summer BreakSpots visit splibraries.org or call the library for serving times. 

Click here to find other participating locations.

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