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Kids read for chance to see Zoo Atlantas ZooMobile
Libraries offer children opportunity to visit zoo
Maisy Durkin, 9, a rising fourth-grader at Mt. Vernon Elementary School, reads Wednesday at the Gainesville branch library. The Zoo Atlanta ZooMobile will be coming to the Spout Springs branch library July 27. Space is limited. However, each time a child’s summer reading list is checked off, a lottery ticket is placed in a drawing for his/her chance to see the mobile zoo. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Getting reading logs checked at the library already earns kids prizes, but now there's an extra incentive — a chance to win a seat at the Zoo Atlanta ZooMobile presentation later this month.

"A lot of people are very excited about this, especially the parents and kids who are very faithful about coming in to get their logs checked," said Adrianne Junius, director of youth services for the Hall County Library System.

Children will fill out lottery tickets when they get their logs checked. The lottery ends on July 17, giving children a chance to enter twice, once for each week. As of Wednesday afternoon, the first day the lottery started, between 80 and 100 entries were filled out, Junius said.

There are more than 3,000 kids enrolled in the library system's summer reading program, but only 60 to 70 will be able to go to the ZooMobile when it comes to the Spout Springs branch on July 27.

"It's based on instructor ratio. We have found that there is only a certain number of students we can interact with in an hour," said Stacy Graison, director of education for Zoo Atlanta. "Most school classrooms are 25 to 30 students, and this allows them to put two classes together."

Graison said the ZooMobile, which began more than 20 years ago, brings several animals out for kids to see, including snakes, rabbits, a gopher tortoise and a hedgehog.

She said it's important to bring things children are already familiar with.

"It's very popular, especially with challenges facing schools and families and the library systems," Graison said. "We use the ZooMobile to say, ‘if you can't come to the zoo, we'll bring it to you,' and this is the next best thing."

Junius said this is the first time the ZooMobile has come to Hall County. The library system was chosen to host the ZooMobile by the Georgia Public Library Service, which began a partnership with the zoo in February.

"The zoo agreed to do 10 library visits per year," said David Baker, communications director for Georgia Public Library Service. "It was pretty much first come, first serve."

Baker said Adrian Mixson, director of the Hall County Library System, got the system into the mix.

"Hall County doesn't get to come to the zoo that often," Graison said. "Places that are that far away, this helps us get out to reach them."

Junius said the library system wanted to give everyone in the reading program a chance to enter the lottery, so the activities scheduled at the now-closed Clermont branch will continue so children in that area can enter as well.

As part of the partnership with Zoo Atlanta, libraries statewide are able to offer another chance to visit the zoo. Anyone with a valid library card can watch their library's Zoo Atlanta DVD and, upon return, get a receipt exchangeable for zoo passes.

Baker said the partnership was so popular, Zoo Atlanta had put 25 more DVDs in circulation to keep up with demand.

"We went to a birthday party once where it was a Zoo to You program and the kids still talk about it," said Gainesville resident Christine Durkin. Her daughter, 6-year-old Sarah, a student at Mount Vernon Elementary, entered the lottery Wednesday.

Gainesville resident Merrill Frazier brought her two daughters, Lucy and Della, to the Gainesville branch of the library Wednesday for the same reason.

"They're both animal lovers," Frazier said. "We can't really afford to come to the zoo, so we're happy for the zoo to come to us."