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Elgin library has plan to snap up more readers

Gail Borden Public Library Elghopes bring display thincludes replicskeletSuperCroc or sarcosuchus if enough funding can be found. | Submitted

Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin hopes to bring in a display that includes a replica skeleton of SuperCroc, or sarcosuchus, if enough funding can be found. | Submitted

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:13AM

ELGIN — Last summer, the Gail Borden Public Library hit its largest number ever for the number of area schoolchildren who signed up and finished its summer reading program.

This summer, the library staff hopes to add even more bite to summer reading by bringing SuperCroc to the library.

Brought to the library by Project Exploration — the same organization that brought “Giants: African Dinosaurs” to Gail Borden in 2005 — library patrons will see a replica SuperCroc, the 110 million-year-old African crocodile that University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno found in the African desert in 1997 and 2000.

However, more funding is needed to bring the $100,000 exhibit to Elgin.

The Grand Victoria Casino has provided a $25,000 grant and promised another $25,000 “challenge grant.” If community and corporate donors will provide $25,000 in funding, the challenge grant will match those funds, said Denise Raleigh, director of community relations and marketing at Gail Borden.

With another $25,000 donated by the library foundation, all needed funds will be in hand, Raleigh said.

What they will get, she added, is an exhibit library staff believes will draw not only children and families but also new readers.

SuperCroc, or sarcosuchus, is believed to have been as long as a city bus — up to 40 feet long — and to have eaten dinosaurs.

The library will get a replica of the croc’s skeleton, a model of the reptile, a fossil skull, an interactive expedition tent, and many other exhibit pieces to flesh out the display, Raleigh said.

In addition, the library staff has created its own summer reading program and theme — Read on the Wild Side. “We will have a lot of promotions on books that feature wild things, wildlife, animals, paleontology, archeology, science … and crocodiles,” Raleigh said.

There are already plans in the works to bring some “crocs” to Elgin, too.

For the past four summers, Sigi Psimenos and a committee have created a summer art series to promote not only art but also tie into the library’s summer reading program. That art series has included Rain Barrels on Parade in 2009, Bikes on Parade in 2010, Thrones of Summer in 2011 and Elgin Al Fresco — A Taste of the Arts in 2012.

This summer’s program — tentatively titled “What a Croc” — is set for 2013. Exactly what local artists will be asked to embellish for that project is still being considered, Psimenos said.

Numbers up

Tying summer reading, an exhibit, and public art together has helped bring more summer readers to the library, Raleigh said.

However, all of the community involvement with summer reading really came to a head in 2012, Raleigh said — leading to 3,768 children completing summer reading program. That was a 100 percent increase over previous years, she said. A total of 8,500 area children signed up for summer reading last year, too.

Those numbers can be attributed to Elgin School District U46’s “Dr. Torres Reading Challenge” — promoted by U46 Superintendent Jose Torres — and other promotions that encouraged kids to read, she said.

“We added incentives like water park passes and a carnival, in addition to the book prizes we have always had.”

Anthony Pedote and Windy City Carnivals offered one-day ride wristbands to children who finished the program. The Elgin parks department gave water park passes to children as well.

At the same time, staff from parks and recreation and the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin were also trained by library staff to work on the summer reading program.

Results of that heavy promotion already have been realized, Raleigh said. Students in second through ninth grade who completed summer reading saw their reading test scores improve. “At every level, they surpassed the averages of students who did not participate in summer reading,” Raleigh said.

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