LEE -- It was magic.
A standing room-only crowd of nearly 70 children and adults filled the community room of the Lee Library Association on Monday as part of its summer reading kick-off.
Florence-based magician Ed Popielarczyk was the opening act. He conjured peals of laughter from the crowd with his sleights of hand, comical antics and balloon sculptures -- all performed with the help of audience volunteers.
But afterward, books were the main attraction. Dozens of youths stuck around to browse the stacks and pick up a few titles to take home.
"It’s fun and cool to read," said Emily Molino, a rising fifth-grader, who has participated in summer reading programs since she started school.
On Monday, Molino picked out "Sprinkles and Secrets," by Lisa Schroeder, a story about the friendship between a couple of 12-year-old girls. For kids looking for a good book, Molino recommends anything by author Andrew Clements.
While browsing for books, the student found her name on a list along with dozens of summer readers on posters hung in the youth department. Public services librarian Rosemarie Borsody said that the reading charts not only help young readers keep track of the number of books they read during the summer, but seeing a growing number of stamps earned after the completion of each book also creates a little "positive peer pressure to read more.
Lee is just one of more than a hundred libraries participating in this year’s statewide summer reading program called "Dream Big Read!" The program is not only geared to children, but provides incentives, like small prizes, group reads, and special events for teens and adults as well.
The program is sponsored by local libraries and foundations, as well as the Massachusetts Library System, the Boston Bruins, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and the Institute of Museums and Library Services.
Before the end of Monday’s show, Popielarczyk reminded his audience to "make sure to read a lot this summer."
"That’s how I got my start as I magician. When I was a kid, I went to my local library and took out books on magic," he said.
To find a summer reading program and/or enroll online, visit www.readsinma.org or check out your local library.
To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink