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York County Libraries will celebrate first-grade readers on Saturday as part of their Grade One At the Library (GOAL) Celebration.

GOAL is a program for first-grade students throughout the county. The program works with first-grade teachers to encourage the students to get a library card and visit their library by offering incentives. In the first visit, students can choose a pencil or a gel bracelet, in their second visit, students get a backpack, and in the third visit students they get a copy of the designated GOAL author's book, according to Deb Sullivan, community relations director for York County Libraries.

This year's designated GOAL author is the children's author and illustrator Peter Catalanotto, and students in the program will receive a copy of his book, "Monkey & Robot." GOAL authors participate in the program for three years, and this year is Catalanotto's last year. He will be replaced by children's author Lindsay Barrett George.

According to a news release from York County Libraries, the celebration will include storytelling by George Matthew, the youth services program coordinator at Dover Area Community Library, face painting by Changing Faces 4 Fun and a reading or presentation by Catalanotto, who will also sign copies of his book.

Sullivan explained that the program helps get young students through the library doors so they can learn about the other programs and resources that libraries in the area offer, such as American Girl reading clubs or programs where students who are shy about reading out loud can read to dogs.

“First grade is often the time when children are learning to read, and the library provides children and their parents with free access to books at the appropriate reading levels,” said York County Libraries President Robert Lambert in the news release. “And for children who are reluctant readers, several of our libraries offer the program ‘Sit. Stay. Read,’ which enables children to sign up to read to specially trained dogs who are attentive and nonjudgmental listeners. By connecting students to educational opportunities, resources and books, the GOAL program is one way that our libraries reinforce what children are learning at school and home.”

Sullivan explained that all 16 school districts in York County are participants in the GOAL program along with 10 private or parochial schools. In addition, 70 first-grade teachers across the county have 100 percent participation by their students in the GOAL program. Classes with that level of participation are entered into a drawing to have a personal visit from Catalanotto.

As of Nov. 9, 3,300 first-grade students in the county have become members of the GOAL program this year. Overall, Sullivan estimates that close to 27,000 students have received library cards through the GOAL program since its inception in 2008. In the eight years that the program has existed, the students who are a part of the program have borrowed half a million books, not including this year's numbers.

"We just want to encourage them to keep reading and celebrate the achievement that they have made so far," Sullivan said.

The event, which is free and open to the public even if they are not a GOAL program member, will take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Penn State York Conference Center.

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