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Summer program draws kids to library
The Manteca Library hosts a special guest every Wednesday through the month of July. The summer season began last week with Magic Dan performing to a capacity crowd. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• The Manteca Library is located at 320 W. Center Street. The library is currently offering its Summer Reading Program, which is free to children, teens and adults. Additionally, the library will host events and special guests Tuesday through Thursday through the month of July.

Rene Alvarez sat on a park bench in front of the Manteca Library, pleased to be miles away from a television and video games.

Her children bounced, spun and sprinted around the playground area, unlocking their imaginations.

They were Pokémon characters, defense attorneys in court, lead detectives on a murder mystery, and in the next instant, animals in the wild.

On Alvarez’s lap sat the fuel for these make-believe games, these fits of fantasy – three blue bags stuffed with books.

“You can only watch so much television or play so many video games,” she said. “They need a challenge. They need something to keep them going through the summer.”

Alvarez enrolled her three children – Andrew, Leilani and Danny – in the library’s free Summer Reading Program on Wednesday afternoon, spending over an hour tracing their way through aisles of the library.

By all accounts, the Alvarez kids were late to this party. The Manteca Library has been a summer hotspot for the youth in town since school let out earlier this month.

Nearly 400 children have enrolled in the Summer Reading Program, and events like Wednesday’s visit by puppet master and magician Tony Borders have produced lines that have wrapped around the building.

Kids still flock to malls and veg out in front of their TVs, but a large faction find excitement and escape in a book, Nook and Kindle.

“I love to read,” said 9-year-old Leilani Alvarez, cradling two chapter books and an arts and craft guide. “Usually before bed I read my books. I really like mysteries. … I like to see what’s going to happen next.”

Rena Wiriaatmadja takes great pride in a statement like that, and loves to see children stagger toward checkout with a wibbly-wobbly tower of books.

In many ways, Wiriaatmadja was no different than Leilani Alvarez at that age. Her fascination with the Manteca Library began as a 9-year-old, too. She would ride her bike across town two to three times a week each summer until finally staff – so familiar with her face and selections – offered her a job as a volunteer stamping books.

All these years later, Wiriaatmadja, now 37, hasn’t left. All that’s changed is her role. These days, she helps coordinate summer programming and her daughter volunteers.

On Wednesday, Wiriaatmadja sat at the Information Desk directing traffic.

“The library is a welcoming place. I remember coming down here for the Summer Reading Program as a kid. I know the legacy of us doing our program is huge,” she said. “We pride ourselves on that.”

The Summer Reading Program is free to children, teenagers and adults from June 1 to July 31, and features incentives and rewards. The program follows a statewide theme, “Reading is so Delicious.”

The program is designed to keep students engaged in reading during their break from school.

“We don’t want the learning to stop over the summer. Leisure reading has always been a source of entertainment,” Wiriaatmadja said. “This is a way to keep the learning going. They may not think they’re learning anything, but by reading they’re building for the next year.”

Next year? Andrew Alvarez is using a much longer lens.

The oldest of the Alvarez trio, Andrew has already plotted out the steps necessary for him to become a defense attorney.

He’s only 10.

“I need to start studying now,” he said. “An attorney needs quick reflexes; they need to know all the facts.”

He’s come to the right place.

The Manteca Library is a branch in the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library System, and together they’ve developed quite the interactive summer schedule.

In addition to the reading program, the Manteca Library will host a special guest every Wednesday through the end of July.

On Wednesday, Tony Borders performed to a capacity crowd, and next week’s feature is Crazy Crafts with Ruthanne. 

Each week, the library offers storytime  programs beginning with All About Baby on Tuesdays and Preschool on Thursdays.

“I think this will be fun,” Alvarez said.