NEWINGTON - The giraffe-headed animal with zebra-striped legs is called an okapi, kids learned at the Lucy Robbins Welles Library this week.
The 2018 Winter Reading Program, “Swing into Reading,” has participants identifying unique animals, playing games and completing challenges.
Over 70 children are taking part in the program, which began Jan. 20 and culminates on Feb. 24.
They receive raffle tickets for each book they read and challenge they complete, like telling an adult about the weather in a rainforest, reading 20 minutes or more for 10 days and attending a library program.
Twelve out of the 16 challenges must be completed in order to receive a prize, which they can pick up at the library anytime between Feb. 20 and 28.
This week a group played rainforest games in the children’s program room with children’s librarian Joanne Cocola. There was Bingo, tic-tac-toe, racing across the carpet wearing dinosaur feet and balancing on a winding link without falling in the Amazon River.
They also competed with an opponent, seeing how many ping pong balls they could throw into boxes across the table decorated with leafy paper.
“They’re pretending the ping pong balls are poison dart frogs and sending them back to the rainforest,” volunteer Shihao Zhai explained.
Zhai, 18, is a student at Newington High School who has been volunteering at the library for the last four years. He’s using the community service hours to boost his college applications, but enjoying it in the process.
“The library is like my second home,” Zhai said. “It’s a very warm place and always fun.”
Kids usually log in their reading online for the library’s summer and winter programs. This year, they’re filling out paper worksheets and bringing them in to the library themselves.
“We’re not going to use the computerized system for the summer so this is our test run to see how it goes,” said Beth Mendelsohn, with children’s services. “The goal is to get them away from their devices and into the library.”
Prizes serve as incentives to earn raffle tickets and complete challenges, many of which involve talking about their learning.
“It’s a good way to teach them how to communicate with adults,” Cocola said.
Winter Reading is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.