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It's MY Library. CLP-Allegheny. 1230 Federal Street

For North Side resident Jen Saffron, the Library is much more than just books. As a mother of two boys, she views CLP - Allegheny as a community gathering place that is especially important for neighborhood children.

Like all Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations, CLP - Allegheny provides a full schedule of programming to promote a love of reading and learning for children at every age level. From science programs, to storytime, to crafts, the Library offers a wide array of learning opportunities to help provide school readiness and encourage lifelong reading and learning habits in children and teens.

"Having safe, productive indoor time is difficult when you have boys," says Ms. Saffron. "The Library offers a variety of programs that engage my kids in a way we don't find anywhere else."

Beyond specific programming, Ms. Saffron stresses the importance of the relationships her boys and other North Side children have with library staff.

"Children need trusting adults in their lives. Teachers and pastors play those roles and so do librarians," Ms. Saffron explains. "When you engage a child, it says 'I care about you.' This is a message that children need."

Like many kids in Pittsburgh, Ms. Saffron's boys Eli and Leo are participating in Summer Reading activities at the Library. The Summer Reading Program is one of the most important services the Library offers to children and families, encouraging families to develop a system that encourages year-round reading skills. Studies show that children who read during non-school times are more prepared for the upcoming school year. Children who do not read or who are not read to in the summer months are more likely to fall behind their peers.

"We have children and their families in the Library all day during the summer months," said Jennifer Pickle, Children's Librarian at CLP - Allegheny. "The Summer Reading Program and all the activities that happen during the school break are important to keep students from losing the gains that were made during the school year."

The Library also offers children an opportunity to read for fun. "With strict curriculum guidelines, children do not have much choice when it comes to reading assignments during the school year," said Ms. Pickle. "Summer activities at the Library allow kids to choose books that fit their interests. With no parameters, they have access to any topic or type of reading material that might interest them."

In addition to broadening the scope of reading choices, the Summer Reading Program assists students in getting a head start on the 25 Book Reading Campaign, which is a part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools curriculum that encourages school-age children to read 25 books each year.

In 2010, more than 9,000 children and teens participated in the Library's Summer Reading Program. Children's programs are supported by community donations from individual donors, foundations and corporate partners.

>> You can help these programs thrive by making a gift to the Library's Annual Fund. To learn more, visit www.carnegielibrary.org/support.