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Super Hero School brings reading to life for local children 

Paso Robles City Library, Heather Stephenson, Rich Clayton, Eileen Higgins, Chris Williams, Meagan Friberg

Local children enjoyed a slew of activities on Tuesday during the Paso Robles City Library’s Super Hero School, part of the annual summer reading program, thanks to the combined efforts of library staff and community volunteers. Pictured left to right are: Paso Robles Joint Unified School Distict Superintendent Chris Williams (Super Man), District Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Eileen Higgins (Wonder Woman), students Andrew and Libby Higgins, District Athletic Director Rich Clayton (Captain America), and Super Librarian Heather Stephenson. Photo by Meagan Friberg

Summer reading programs and activities are being offered free of cost through August 15 at Paso Robles City Library

— There was a lot of flying, jumping, and heroic acts taking place in Paso Robles on Tuesday as nearly 100 local school children combined let their imaginations run wild during Super Hero School, part of the annual Paso Robles City Library’s summer reading program that kicked off June 15.

Overseeing it all was Heather Stephenson, children’s services librarian. After first presenting the activity downtown at the Library Conference Room, Stephenson and her volunteer crew gathered their gear and headed over to the Library Study Center on Oak Street where they were greeted by another large group.

“Kids have the ability to use their imaginations and we helped to fuel that imagination today with this fun program,” said Stephenson.

Paso Robles City Library, Heather Stephenson, Rich Clayton, Eileen Higgins, Chris Williams, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District

Paso Robles School District Athletic Director Rich Clayton, pictured at left as Captain America, talks with kids about the importance of taking care of their bodies through exercise during the Super Hero School summer reading program at the Paso Robles City Library as Paso Robles Superintendent Chris Williams, as Super Man, looks on. Photo courtesy of Heather Stephenson

School district & community superheroes

Three Paso Robles Unified School District employees donned costumes and joined in on the fun as well. Superintendent Chris Williams was Super Man for the day while District Athletic Director Rich Clayton was Captain America. They led groups of kids through an obstacle course that had participants crossing a balance beam over a lake of lava (orange-tinted egg cartons) and leaping tall buildings in a single bound (cardboard replicas) before grabbing animals (plush), hopping on a scooter, navigating through construction cones, and bringing the animals to safety.

“We are excited to join with the library to help promote literature and reading during the summer,” said Williams. “It’s important to get students involved and we want to do whatever we can to help kids in our community – that’s what we are all about. As superheroes, we talked about reading, asked kids about their favorite books, and also talked about exercising and eating well; a healthy body helps create a healthy mind.”

Paso Robles City Library, Heather Stephenson, Rich Clayton, Eileen Higgins, Chris Williams, Meagan Friberg , Paso Robles Joint Unified School District

Heather Stephenson, children’s services librarian for the City of Paso Robles, hands out completion certificates to participants at the Paso Robles City Library’s Super Hero School during the Paso Robles summer reading program on Tuesday. Photo by Meagan Friberg

Nearby, Eileen Higgins, the district’s visual arts and performing arts (VAPA) specialist, was Wonder Woman and helped volunteers from the YMCA of Cambria’s film and movie class, under the supervision of Dan Hartzell, give participants a virtual flying experience. With a green screen in the background and cameras rolling, the kids “flew” the city and up in the clouds. Video was captured and posted online for children and their families to enjoy following the event.

“Chris, Rich, and Eileen got right in there and participated in every activity,” said Stephenson of the district staff. “They deserve a lot of credit for all they did to make this a success.”

Out on the patio, volunteers helped kids create their very own superhero logos. Inside, representatives from the Paso Robles Children’s Museum helped make masks and handed out free museum passes to all participants.

Paso Robles City Library, Heather Stephenson, Rich Clayton, Eileen Higgins, Chris Williams, Meagan Friberg , Paso Robles Joint Unified School District

It’s a bird, it’s a plane! Green screen technology helps participants learn about the magic of flight during the Paso Robles City Library’s summer reading Super Hero School program on June 23. Video was captured and posted online for children and their families to enjoy following the event. Photo courtesy of Heather Stephenson

Program encourages kids to keep reading throughout the summer months

The goal of the summer reading program, which includes prizes when kids turn in reading charts (available at the Children’s Desk), is to keep kids reading all summer long in order to steer clear of what educators refer to as “the “summer slide.”

“When kids don’t pick up a book during the summer and continue learning, the teachers see a real difference from the time they leave school in June and come back in late August,” said Stephenson. “Summer reading programs are a way to support the schools and support the children to make sure they don’t have that ‘summer slide.’ It’s important to keep reading fun for them; having incentives and special activities are great ways to do just that. We want them to have positive experiences at the library, to think about going to the library as having fun and think about getting books and reading as cool things to do.”

Sign up and participate in free programs

It’s all free thanks to the combined efforts of the City of Paso Robles and community partners that include the Paso Robles Children’s Museum, McDonald’s, Round Table Pizza, and In-N-Out Burger.

Paso Robles City Library, Heather Stephenson, Rich Clayton, Eileen Higgins, Chris Williams, Meagan Friberg , Paso Robles Joint Unified School District

A surprise visit from Spider Man was a big hit during the Paso Robles City Library’s Super Hero School at the Library Study Center and the Uptown Family Park on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Heather Stephenson

The summer reading program has long been a favorite of kids and parents alike and, if the response to Super Hero School is any indication, additional activities offered by Higgins, library staff, and volunteers are sure to be a hit this year as well. With a theme of Every Hero Has a Story, the program continues through August 15, with separate activities and reading incentives for children (3-12) and teens (10-18).

Program activities are free to all participants; sign-ups ongoing throughout the summer. To find out more about the summer reading program, see www.prcity.com/library or visit the Paso Robles City Library, located at 1000 Spring St. or call 237-3870. For the Study Center, stop by 3600 Oak St. Suite 101 or call (805) 237-4743.

Upcoming events for children 3-12

Wednesday, July 8: Magician Gerald Joseph; 2 p.m. at the Library Study Center and 6 p.m. at the Library Conference Room.
Tuesday, July 14: Sing Loud, Be Proud: Melissa Green Concert; 10:30 a.m. at the Library Conference Room and 1:30 p.m. at the Library Study Center.
Thursday, July 16: Make a Rocket Drop-In Craft; 10 a.m. – Noon at the Library Story Room and Children’s Area; 1-3 p.m. at the Library Study Center.
Saturday, July 18: Launch Day 3-2-1 Blast Off!; 3-4 p.m. in the Paso Robles City Park .
Thursday, Aug. 6: Healthy Heroes; 2 p.m. at the Library Study Center
Friday, Aug. 7: Healthy Heroes; 11 a.m. at the Library Conference Room
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Who Are the Heroes in Your Neighborhood? 3-5 p.m. at 11th St. between Spring and Park streets.
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Free Family Movie Matinee; 2 p.m. at the Library Conference Room.

See www.prcity.com/library for a schedule of events for teens.

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About the author: Reporter Meagan Friberg

Meagan Friberg is a reporter for the Paso Robles Daily News and A-Town Daily News.

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