Ten-year-old Salah Ramadan thinks reading for 15 straight minutes is "easy." So when he owed the Lagrange branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library $1 in late fees, he decided to "read it off."
The library system's "Read Off Your Fines" program began yesterday. The program allows youths whose library cards have been invalidated because of fines to read their way to a clean slate.
"It's better to read than just going and asking your parents [for the money]," Salah said. "You're supposed to read for about a half-hour everyday."
That can-do attitude is exactly what the library is trying to foster, library spokesman Chris Kozak said.
"It's important [for children] to read in the summer to maintain reading skills," he said. "Just 15 minutes a day will have a serious impact, and teachers don't have to reteach as much in the fall."
Children who rack up $5 in library fines can't check out materials.
Faith Hairston, a supervisor at the Lagrange branch, said books generally are late because children either forget to return them or can't find them. The library hopes this program will encourage reading, since it gives children another chance to check out books.
"Most of them want to do [the program]. They're very enthusiastic about it, and they see their fines come down," Ms. Hairston said.
The program has many benefits, Ms. Hairston said, both for children and their families, especially those with financial hardships.
"A lot of the kids in our community don't have fat allowances," she said. "We tell them when they come to the desk, 'You can work it off.' It helps give ownership to the kids."
The children are allowed to read whatever they want as long as they are reading and not talking, Ms. Hairston said.
For each 15 minutes a library volunteer logs under someone's name, a dollar gets knocked off their bill.
Mr. Kozak said forgiving children's fines won't hurt the library system financially. Last year, the system collected $645,860 in fines, which was only 2 percent of the $27 million annual budget.
"Fines aren't an enormous problem," Mr. Kozak said. Most of the library district's operating cost are paid by state and local taxes. "This is just designed to give kids access to the library."
In April and May, the library system ran a pilot version of the program at the Main library and five branches. The test run attracted 125 readers who logged about 82 total hours and paid off $327 in fines.
The program, which ends Sept. 4, also is intended to foster interest in the youth, teen, and adult summer reading clubs being held until Aug. 7 at all branches. Last year, 18,177 readers participated in the clubs.
Youth can participate in Read Off Your Fines at:
Main, Children's Library, 325 North Michigan St.: Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Birmingham, 203 Paine Ave.: Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Heatherdowns, 3265 Glanzman Rd.: Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
Holland, 1032 South McCord Rd.: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Kent, 3101 Collingwood Blvd.: Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Lagrange, 3015 Lagrange St.: Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m.
Locke, 806 Main St.: All branch operating hours.
Mott, 1085 Dorr St.: Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Oregon, 3340 Dustin Rd.: Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m.
Outreach Services: All bookmobile stops community-wide.
Point Place, 2727 117th St.: Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m.
Sanger, 3030 West Central Ave.: Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m.
South, 1638 Broadway: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Toledo Heights, 423 Shasta Drive: Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m.
Washington, 5560 Harvest Lane: Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Contact Meredith Heagney at: