Main Library (File photo)

THE LIBRARY LOWDOWN — This past summer almost 4,800 youth participated in the Library’s summer reading program, reading over 2.1 million minutes. The 20 percent increase was due in part to the new Pico Branch Library and in part to the fun science theme, “Fizz Boom Read!” In addition, 389 youth programs were offered with over 15,000 in attendance. The libraries have never been busier during the summer months, but the benefits of increased literacy skills in our youth and the prevention of summer learning loss are worth the library staff time needed to make these important programs possible. Over the past decade, summer reading registration has almost tripled.

We know that Santa Monica kids and teens love their libraries! And now that school is back in session youth are invited back for another reason: help with their homework.

How can your neighborhood library help with homework? There are the impressive collections for children and teens — 140,000 books across five libraries for research reports and class reading assignments. The new Pico branch alone has over 10,000 books for youth. All the essential school projects are covered — California missions, states, countries, science projects, and biographies. Just ask a friendly librarian to show you where they are shelved.

If you dig a little deeper, there are online resources that may surprise you. Our youth librarians are happy to share our high quality online databases that are not available through a Google and help you search exclusive content available only through your Library. These include the online World Book Encyclopedia, the Student Research Center, Mango Languages, and a webpage featuring links to websites that help with the California history assignments that are part of the curriculum.

For those families without computers at home, children and teens can use one of the 50 youth computers throughout the libraries for up to two hours each day. These computers are equipped with the Microsoft Office Suite and have Internet access. For groups of students who want to study together, there are Study Rooms at the Main Library and Pico Branch.

The drop-in Homework Help program for grades 1-5 at the Fairview and Pico Branches is perfect for those students who benefit from small-group tutoring. Fairview’s Study Zone provides a quiet space in which to get homework projects done.

What if you have a homework question but the library is already closed for the day? We have online tutoring available from 1 to 10 p.m. every day, including weekends. Brainfuse HelpNow is available as a link through the Library’s website (smpl.org). These are paid, certified tutors – not volunteers. The average time a tutor spends with each student is 25 minutes per session. Post-session surveys reveal that 90 percent of students who use it are glad the library provides online tutoring and that it is helping them improve their homework. The Brainfuse Writing Lab gives helpful feedback, guidance and corrections for writing assignments after a student uploads their paper.

For teens, the library offers college prep workshops as well as SAT and ACT practice tests. There are also college guides and test prep books in the library collection. Brainfuse CollegeNow features online test prep and college process and application information. For those teens with a community service requirement the volunteer program (grades 8-12) can be a fun way to help out the library and get community service credit.

After all that research, kids will be ready for a study break. The library has bestsellers, favorite authors and popular series for entertainment and escape. Music CDs and DVDs are available for check out, and our newest movie and music streaming service, Hoopla, will surprise you with the variety of content available.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Visit the library to find even more treasure.

Roger Kelly is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Santa Monica Pubic Library. He currently serves on the national Caldecott Medal committee. This prestigious honor is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. The 2015 award will be announced on Feb. 2.

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