A "picnic" to pick books for youths to choose from for this summer drew a flurry of First Regional Library system staff to the M.R. Davis Public Library in Southaven for a first-rate selection for the 14 branches.

"This is when all of our Children's Specialists come together to select and pack up the books we will be giving away this summer," said First Regional Public Relations Specialist David Brown.

Victoria Penny, Hernando-based First Regional Youth Services Coordinator, "has been stockpiling books for months, and we organized them for the staff to come get at our Summer Reading Program Book Picnic," said Brown of last week's event. "We're talking thousands of books. It's quite a production!"

Children and teens who register for the Summer Reading Program get to choose a free new book to keep. First Regional obtains these books through grants, donations and from deep discounts offered by book publishers.

"We have many fun and educational programs during the summer," said Penny, "but our main goal is to keep kids reading during the summer."

Studies show that youths who read during the season-long school hiatus maintain or improve on their reading levels.

"The Youth Specialists get first pick of books, and ours, Stephanie Gillian, said the selection at this year's Book Picnic was great," said Senatobia Branch Head Librarian Laurie Madsen. "She's really excited, and the kids and teenagers will be excited, too."

There are books for every age group, from toddler to teens, from "indestructible board books for little ones to popular novels for young adults," said Madsen. "We have hundreds of books selected by Stephanie."

In addition to the free book for registering, young readers who complete the Summer Reading Program earn a backpack.

Online registration for the Summer Reading Program begins Monday, May 15 at firstregional.beanstack.org and in-library registration at all branches starts June 1.

Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at hbailey@desototimestribune.com and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.

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