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Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017

Upper Tampa Bay library lets teens develop activities

TAMPA – Many teens still read books.

And yes, some even if they aren’t being forced to or isn’t required for school.

With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, video games, and almost every other way to get information, keep in touch with friends and play, kids are going less and less at the library and, studies show, they are doing a lot less reading on their own.

A group of high school students who assemble at the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library in Westchase not only still enjoy books, they enjoy reading the old-fashioned ones that aren’t on a digital device.

These kids are part of the Teen Advisory Board at the library. They meet on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4:30 p.m. and are there for more than just the books. The group gets involved with other teen programs offered by the newly expanded library, offering members a chance to not only earn those much needed community service hours toward high school graduation but a valuable plus to most college applications.

And the group isn’t just about book talk. The members have a lot of fun. On Thursdays they meet to play games that they learned when they were kids. It’s a chance to enjoy the present while reliving their past.

“The library isn’t some boring spot that’s all about books,” said group president Tirza Thambiraj, an Alonso High School student who is interested in attending an Ivy League school, especially Harvard. “We try to get teens from all over to get involved in the library. We plan activities and get everyone involved. This can be a fun place and a lot of teens don’t realize that.”

The teens recently came out with their own mission statement. They are charged with getting other students interested in the library, luring them to spend their time at the library instead of staring into their cell phones, and finding new opportunities to expand their horizons while making an impact on the community.

It’s a tall task, but the group has big plans. They are preparing yoga classes, a game zone, arts and crafts, and movie nights at the library.

Reading for fun isn’t such a bad thing, said Jesuit High student Matthew Silva.

“You can come here and find a good story and just read for the fun of it,” he said. “It can be fun if you give it a chance.”

Hillsborough High student Robert Wood added, “There are a lot of things to do, but a day at the library can be fun. More people should try it.”

Katrina Chamberlain runs the library youth services department and said the group is ready to grow once the word gets out.

“The kids that are involved have a great time,” she said. “There’s so much for them to do now that we have grown. We are looking for more teens and they are all welcome.”

For more information on the Teen Advisory Board at the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, call (813) 273-3652. The library is located at 11211’ Countryway Blvd.