Library lets young readers work off late fees by reading more

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In today’s technology-obsessed world, getting kids to read more actual books is certainly a worthy goal. Libraries in Los Angeles are trying a new program to ensure young readers log more hours devouring books.

Los Angeles County is working with local schools to ensure that all students are signed up for library cards. Additionally, they are eliminating late fees for readers younger than 21 years old. As a book-obsessed kid who often racked up my fair share of library late fees, this is a perk I definitely could have used!

The new rules go into effect immediately, but is not retroactive for those who had past fines. But, the county is offering a smart solution for those children, too. They will now be able to pay off their balances by simply reading more!

They’re letting kids eliminate $5 of fees for every hour of reading they do at the library. “You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” Leilany Medina, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A., explained to the Los Angeles Times. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.” Medina is so invested in her reading habit that she hopes to become a librarian herself one day.

Administrators hope that the policy will encourage kids to use the library more, and in turn, read more. “When charges accrue on a young person’s account, generally, they don’t pay the charges and they don’t use the card,” Darcy Hastings, the L.A. County’s assistant library administrator for youth services, said. “A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services.”

kids reading books photo
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So far, the policy seems to be having the intended effect. According to Aleah Jurnecka, children’s librarian at East L.A. Library, at least 100 students a week opt to read off their debt. She says the policy is also appreciated by parents.

What a great idea! Hopefully other library systems will follow suit.

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Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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