There are some things I immediately and pleasantly associate with childhood, including: my first crush; collecting and reading comics; playing baseball until after dark; and the wonder of exploring the library. However, there are some things that don’t bode too well with a carefree childhood, namely, fines on a library card. In many ways, a youth’s library card is a rite of passage, maybe even a first step, into the world of responsibility; but as Spider-man taught us, "with great power comes great responsibility," and so it is with a library card.
Fines on a youth’s library card—usually acquired through not returning, or losing an item—are the Wicked Witch, the Lord Voldemort, and the Venom to a child’s heroic endeavors into the library. They’re a real bummer—the shard of troll-mirror lodged in the eye, freezing the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders, keeping them from being able to check out material and have full use of the library. Is there no way to vanquish this obstacle? Thankfully, yes, there is, with the Read Down Fines program recently launched at the Pratt Library. And like all good hero stories, the power resides in the actions of the youth themselves.
Throughout 2013, children and youth up to 17 years old can come in to their local Pratt Library branch, check-in with their librarian, or attend a Read Down Fines event, crack a book, and start reading down their fines by earning Pratt Bucks, which they can then apply like real cash to their fines at the Circulation Desk. Children 12 and under earn one Pratt Buck for every 15 minutes of supervised reading time, and teens ages 13 to 17 earn one Pratt Buck for every 30 minutes. (Sorry, but you can’t read and gain Pratt Bucks towards a surplus savings to swim in like Scrooge McDuck or to apply to future fines—you can only apply them to fines already on your card.)
Read Down Fines is a way to empower kids to work towards a tangible goal through the act of reading, and is another way of fostering responsibility. As Selma, the head Children’s Librarian at the Central Library, explains: "it’s important for kids to find value in their own reading," and this is another way (figuratively & literally) for them to do so. Another great aspect of this program is that homework counts towards the Pratt Bucks; also, reading magazines, as well as listening to audiobooks counts. Basically, you just need to show up and take in a book in some form.
This initiative is only going through 2013, so be sure to check out when your library is having a Read Down Fines event, or come to the Central Library’s next one on Saturday, February 16 at 2 p.m. Unless you wind up with an awesome job, kids, this may be the only time where reading can earn you more than just knowledge!