Two Howard County schools have teamed with the local library and each other to promote reading among middle school pupils and their families.
As a result, pupils from Elkridge Landing and Mayfield Woods middle schools will get a chance to attend two reading-themed events this year, paid for with an $860 grant from the Maryland Humanities Council.
Science fiction and fantasy writer Annette Curtis Klause -- author of such young adult books as "Alien Secrets" and "Blood and Chocolate" -- will speak Oct. 28 at the Elkridge branch of Howard County Public Library, and African-American folklore group the Bunjo Storytellers will perform at Mayfield Woods in March.
The two schools and the library formed a partnership this year to encourage children to read and to use their local libraries. Alfreda Martino, media specialist at Elkridge Landing, said middle-schoolers are often too distracted by other activities to read in their free time.
"It's hard, because right now, sixth-graders, they're so overwhelmed by middle school and homework that I think their leisure reading drops," Martino said.
"It is very hard to get them to want to read for pleasure because their lives are so busy with other things. Our sixth-graders this year seem to really love to read, and I'm hoping we can continue that as they go through middle school."
Because some pupils at both middle schools are studying science fiction and fantasy writing, Klause seemed a natural choice to speak to them about reading and writing, Martino said.
"Both of our schools are going to be encouraging the eighth-graders especially to go," said Candace Davis, a media specialist at Mayfield Woods. "The eighth-graders do study 'Frankenstein' and some of the darker, romantic horror stories like that. We thought this would be an opportunity to encourage students to listen to an author who writes similar kinds of books."
In March, the Bunjo Storytellers will use costumes and props to bring African and African-American folklore to life in the Mayfield Woods cafeteria. The group is made up of librarians from Baltimore city and county whom Davis has seen perform.
Though the storytellers do not read to children in the traditional sense, Davis said the event should inspire youngsters to take an interest in folk tales.
"As far as I'm concerned, anything that motivates kids to read would be good," Davis said. "It should pique their interest in folk tales, and the sixth-graders do a unit on folk tales and fairy tales."
Both schools have embarked on library card drives, and some of the library employees have volunteered at school events such as Elkridge Landing's ice cream social.
Martino is also working with the library to keep its staff informed on projects and assignments Elkridge Landing pupils are working on, in case they need to use library resources.
"They really appreciate us telling them what the students are going to need ahead of time so they're prepared," Martino said.