A group of girls crowded around a table, quietly eyeing the sea of makeup and skin care products that lay in front of them. Some, of course, they knew about--lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, nail polish. Others, such as toner and exfoliator, were a complete mystery.
For most of the girls, ages 11 to 14, the grown-up world of makeup was uncharted territory. And they looked to Andrea Quartararo, of cosmetic company Lancome, to navigate them through the maze of colors, creams and smells.
The 19 girls didn't have to go to the mall for the two-hour "Millennium Makeover" workshop Wednesday. The workshop came to them--to their local library.
For many schoolchildren in the past, the end of the school year meant traipsing down to the local library with Mom to be handed a mimeographed list of books that needed to be read before taking up the yoke of schoolwork again in the fall. The reward for plowing through the list? A bookmark, at best, or a pencil.
But in recent years, public-library summer reading programs in Northern Virginia have undergone face lifts and have emerged as more glamorous versions of their former selves.
To their plain-vanilla offerings of stickers and pencils, area libraries have now added high-tech components to draw Web-savvy youngsters, as well as offered more elaborate prizes and activities to lure youngsters who might otherwise spend the summer parked in front of a computer terminal or the television.
Their efforts appear to be succeeding. Summer reading program enrollment at libraries in Northern Virginia has surged in recent years, say local librarians. Since Loudoun County overhauled its summer reading program three years ago, for example, it has seen enrollment soar. This year, more than 7,000 children have already enrolled, 17 percent more than last year's 6,000 enrollees.
Other libraries report similar success stories.
"It has been phenomenal so far," said Mary Tompkins, development officer of the Prince William Public Library System, where participation in the summer reading program rose last year to 21,450 grade-school children, from 17,317 in 1996. The library expects to see a big increase this year as well.
"It really hasn't let up, and we're very, very pleased about that," Tompkins said.
Even in the one-library town of Falls Church, things are looking up. Enrollment surged last year to about 800, up from 696 in 1995, said Heather Taylor, acting director of the Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church. In a city with a population of a mere 9,500, "we think that's pretty good," Taylor said.
To attract children who might otherwise not give pedestrian summer reading programs a second glance, jurisdictions have beefed up their prize offerings and other rewards for participating in the program.
When children sign up for the program in Loudoun, they get free tickets to see the Potomac Cannons minor-league baseball team, and each week they can win finger puppets and coupons for free and discounted items from local merchants.
Also during the week, the library's six branches are hosting a wide array of entertainers and experts such as Quartararo, who works at Lord & Taylor in the Dulles Town Center.
The clear, fresh look is in, Quartararo explained to the girls. Glitter is also in, especially among young girls, and so are wild nail polish colors such as blue and green.
"You can do a lot with glitter and sparkle and still look made up," she said. "Less is best."
She stressed over and over that the most important thing to apply everyday is sunscreen. Sunscreen on your face, sunscreen on your lips, sunscreen on your legs and sunscreen on your arms.
Quartararo and her assistant Nadia Fayec ended the morning by giving makeovers to all the girls who wanted it. Some watched for a while and left early. But most stayed, patiently waiting their turn to put on a little glamour.
Kimberly Christopher, 12, of Texas, is visiting her grandmother in Sterling this summer and has gone to the library's drama classes. She wanted to come to the makeup workshop because it sounded "cool." She received a makeover from Fayec and was all smiles as her grandmother took a look at her face.
"Yes, it looks nice," her grandmother said. "Nice and subtle."
Along with Quartararo's makeup workshop at Eastern Loudoun Regional Library last week, Dick "That Yo-Yo Guy" Stohr demonstrated various yo-yo tricks to a packed room of children and explained the science behind the spinning objects, such as the yo-yo.
Stohr wowed the group of children by making tricks such as "Rock the Baby," "Walk the Dog" and "Around the World" look easy.
"Do you want to see that again?" he'd ask after every trick.
"Yeah!" the youngsters screamed.
Stohr, a former Navy flight officer, merges fun with science in the second part of the hour-long program. He explained how spin affects a yo-yo, how it helps balance a basketball on a fingertip and how it keeps bicycles from falling down. It's all because of "gyroscopic stability," he kept repeating.
"Now why is this staying up?" he asked, pointing to a football spinning on its end.
"Gy-ro-sco-pic stability!" the crowd yelled out.
Stohr quit his job as a Pentagon contractor two years ago to devote his life to yo-yos. He judges yo-yo competitions and takes his tricks to schools, trade shows and parties across the region. This summer, he is scheduled to visit 56 libraries throughout Virginia and Maryland.
Kathy Kiefer, of Sterling, runs a home day care and brought five children to Stohr's yo-yo workshop Wednesday. "This was a wonderful program," said Kiefer, who goes to the library at least once a week. "We love the activities that the library provides. It's been fabulous so far."
Upcoming programs include an African dance troupe, a puppet show, a magic show and a storyteller. The performers make it a point to tell children about library books that might interest them.
At the end of the season, the rewards for readers (who must read at least 25 hours over the summer) get even better. There are raffle drawings for prizes, including a Palm Pilot (a pocket-size computer) and a VIP tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for younger children.
Library spokeswoman Linda Holtslander said the rewards are designed to pull in youngsters who are enthusiastic readers but also to appeal to children who ordinarily wouldn't voluntarily set foot in a library.
"While we like to think that everyone is doing this out of the sheer joy of reading, it doesn't hurt to have these kinds of incentives for kids," Holtslander said.
Libraries also have created special Web sites for summer readers. Loudoun's Web site--www.lcpl.lib.va.us--is in its second summer and offers interactive games, a bookmark-design context and seeks suggestions from children on making the summer-reading program even more exciting.
Librarians say they have plenty of research to back up their efforts to increase enrollment in summer programs.
Studies have shown that children who participate in summer reading programs maintain or improve their reading level, said Barbara Bush, the public information officer for the Alexandria libraries.
"If they do not read consistently throughout the summer, studies have also shown that their reading levels drop, often as much as a grade level," Bush said. "So this is really important. They can read for fun or whatever they like, but it's just important that they develop their skills so they can maintain or improve their reading levels."
CAPTION: Dick "That Yo-Yo Guy" Stohr performs at Eastern Loudoun Regional Library last week, making tricks such as "Rock the Baby," "Walk the Dog" and "Around the World" look easy.
CAPTION: Eight-year-old Jason Wade is among the youngsters mesmerized by a yo-yo trick.
CAPTION: Dick Stohr explains the science behind spinning objects, such as yo-yos.