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Pimlico lays bet on Pratt readers Racetrack to help cash-strapped library buy books.


Facing a deep cut in its book-buying budget, the Enoch Pratt Library is hoping to score at the racetrack for 6,000 new books needed to sustain a popular summer reading program for children.

The Maryland Jockey Club is ensuring that the Pratt will count its winnings in hardbacks after a day at Pimlico.

The club, which runs the track, has scheduled Saturday, June 13, as a day when the price of admission can be a new book for the Pratt.

The track will also donate a majority of the regular admission prices paid on that day by those who choose to contribute cash instead of a book.

"It just shows what business can do for community," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in a news conference today. Other corporations are helping to promote the event.

"The people in this region should support the flagship reading institution," said E. Thomas Lattanzi, director of sales and corporate relations for the jockey club.

"I remember coming here as a teen-ager," doing research for high school debates and compositions, he said. "I know it like the back of my hand."

More than 4,000 young people, from kindergarten through 12th grade, read about 30,000 books each summer in the Pratt's "Race to Read" program, operating at all its branches.

Each child who reads a book gives an oral report on it to a librarian. And the librarian directs the child to further reading and learning of library skills. The library puts on a banquet with awards for the most voracious readers from each age group.

But this program and others have been threatened by years of budget erosion, most recently by a cut in state funding at the beginning of the year dropped the Pratt's books and materials budget from $1.6 million to $1.2 million.

To sustain Race to Read, the Pratt needs 6,000 new books to replace those from its reading list of about 40,000 that are too worn and thumbed-through to last another summer.

Anyone wishing to pay a book for a day at the races may simply go to a bookstore and buy any book from a short list of 26 suggested titles and 25 authors that the Pratt will circulate through all its branches.

The Pratt prefers hardbacks, which average about $15 for children's books, but will accept paperbacks, which average about $5.

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