Quincy Tyler detested books until he met librarian trainee Vershell Wigfall. Tyler, 15, is a New York Public Library Summer Reading participant at the Throggs Neck Library. Wigfall suggested that he read Monster by Walter Dean Myers. That was all it took.
“I got hooked,” Tyler, of Dewey Avenue, said.
Monster tells the story of a 16-year old boy and a felony.
“I liked it because it showed what goes on down here,” Tyler said.
Next, the Wigfall suggested Harry Potter.
“I liked Harry Potter because I wear glasses, too,” Tyler said.
In 2008, only 60 students registered for Summer Reading at the Throggs Neck Library. Thanks to Wigfall, 800 registered this summer. The Pratt University student transferred to Throggs Neck from the Westchester Square Library and was asked implement an after-school program for teens.
“I did board games,” she said. “I did [Nintendo] Wii. I did a Friday talent show. It kept the teens interested.”
Word spread. More and more teens showed up at the library.
“They want to stay busy,” Wigfall said. “The library is the popular spot to be.”
When school let out, Wigfall persuaded library regulars to register for Summer Reading. She recruited more teens at Lehman High School. She promised rewards: knapsacks, posters, an iPod Shuffle.
James Adeleye, 15, devoured 110 books in three months. Jeno Adeleye, 12, read 127. Wigfall stocked the Throggs Neck Library with graphic novels.
“Boys usually aren’t big readers,” Wigfall said. “They’d rather be outside playing football. They don’t like to sit still.”
Wigfall encourages the teens to dance and write poetry. When they’re comfortable at the library, they start to read.
“She bribes us,” Tyler said. “We play board games. We play Scrabble.”
Wigfall, who grew up in Morris Heights, will finish a Master’s in Library Science in 2011. She wants Throggs Neck parents to stop by the library, where Italian American, African American, Asian American and Latin American students rub elbows.
“Visit the library,” Wigfall said. “There are so many great patrons in Throggs Neck. We always have something going on. It’s safe, no-nonsense fun.”
Tyler is eager for the summer to end. He’s set to attend the Bronx School of Law & Finance. Tyler plans to visit the library every afternoon.
“Things are going to be different,” he said. “The teachers aren’t going to have to force me to read.”