By Steve Sears
If you enter the Lincoln Park Public Library and see a young woman with rainbow colored hair, you’ll certainly do a double take.
Please know that your vision is fine, and so is the readership among teens and tweens that visit this snug home of books and activity.
Sara Tomasheski wears a few hats at the library. She is the Adult and Children’s Librarian, but also runs most of the events, and her Summer-2019 suggested one perhaps has been the most adventurous, resulting in her multicolored strands. “I wanted to increase our (among kids in town) reading. A lot of kids will read, but it tends to be the same kids all the time who are coming in here and picking out books. So, I mentioned to Stephanie (Iberer-Flood, Library Director), ‘Hey, can I do this contest? If they read more than me, they can choose what color I dye my hair.’”
Iberer-Flood immediately approved and applauds the results. “Sara’s summer reading challenge with the kids resulted in the highest teen summer reading numbers at LP Library: over 700 books! Sara does such a wonderful job at the Lincoln Park Public Library. She put so much thought and effort into creating a new summer reading program that would get the older kids excited and participating. In addition to the hair challenge, she also changed the prize system by creating scratch-off tickets that could be redeemed for prizes, such as full-sized candy bars, or used as raffle tickets for the hundreds of prizes we had that were generously donated by local businesses. We are very lucky to have Sara. I can’t wait to see what idea she comes up with for next year!”
Please know, things (per Tomasheski) are definitely already in the planning.
In June, Tomasheski visited the elementary and middle schools in town and spoke about summer reading and goings-on at the library. In the past, the younger kids would read for 15 minutes, and every time they did so, they would color a picture and get a prize. Last year, she changed it to reading an hour every week, and halfway through a book they’d receive one prize, and another when completing the book. After noticing that many kids only completed half the cycle, she went for something more lovingly aggressive. “I said to myself, ‘I read a lot, I have to read anyway, they have to read anyway,’” and the idea was born. Every book read had to be a minimum of 100 pages, a doable size. A larger book, such as those in the “Harry Potter” series, would count as two books. “I would count my books as one book – no matter what – and throughout the summer it was a very slow process. Every 20 minutes they read, I made little scratch-off tickets, and they scratched them off and got to win some kind of prize (book, candy bar, etc.). Towards the end of the summer, they started turning in the tickets. I had one girl turn in 90 tickets in one day!” When Tomasheski asked the girl’s mother if she really read all those books, the mother responded, ‘She really did. She really wants you to dye your hair!’”
When each child turned in their reading list, there was a checkoff area on the bottom as to what color Tomasheski should dye here hair. Options were norm colors like black and red, and different kinds like blue, purple, green, orange, and multi-color. Multi-color was the unanimous choice.
Tomasheski’s “fate” was easily cemented: 724 books were read by the youngsters. “The (dying) took about 10 hours,” says Tomasheski with a huge grin, the process she says being performed by a library patron. “Two rounds of bleach and then all the colors.”
The end result (of the reading, although you can tell in her voice that her hair being rainbow colored is exciting) brings much satisfaction. “I think it means that people are interesting in reading, but especially because kids are so much into electronics that maybe they need some kind of incentive to read. Yes, we were doing this as a contest, yes, we were doing this as motivation, but I was hoping to get kids to think – and I think it did – that reading is actually enjoyable.”
The Lincoln Park Public Library is located at 12 Boonton Turnpike (Route 202). For more information about the library and its events, call 973-694-8283, or visit www.lincolnparklibrary.org/calendar.