The library is the last place one would expect to see a heated game of football, but at the Lefrak City branch, kids stand along the sidelines, cheering for their friends as they score. Every Friday at 4:30 p.m. the library hosts a free Wii Sports Challenge for kids to compete on the popular video game console.
“Oh, they can teach me some things, even,” said Chris Asante, community liaison for the library, who organizes and runs the events. “They all are naturals, especially the sports games.”
Asante tried to keep organized the 16 students gathered in the library last Friday while they take turns playing the games. Children range in age from 7 to 14, but Asante says you’re never too young or old to play the Wii.
With its life-like controllers that bring actual swinging, throwing and running into the mix of video-game moves, it’s a good way to keep the kids active and engaged when they can’t go outside, Asante said. They have boxing, baseball, bowling and tennis at their disposal. And with concern over a growing youth obesity epidemic, the Wii may even help engage the least athletic of the group.
The event is part of a larger effort to give children and teens more activities after school, according to Joanne King, associate director of communications for the Queens Library.
Branches throughout the borough have started to host similar events including game nights, open mic poetry nights, hip hop classes and even “Teen Happy Hour” every Friday at 3 p.m. at the Flushing Library, where teenagers play games, listen to music and are generally just given a comfortable space to hang out in.
Since there never seem to be enough nighttime activities for young people in the city, beyond sleepovers or movies which cost money, the events fill a much needed void. They keep children playing while supervised, the perfect combination for concerned parents.
Daniel Roycroft, acting manager of the Lefrak City Library, is happy to see the life these events have brought to the branches and to the children and teens attending them. “It makes the library a destination for them, it gives them another reason to come,” Roycroft said.
The system is hoping to expand its capacities in holding these events, said Sharon Diamond-Velox, one of the organizers. She says the events “absolutely” give kids something fun to do after school and hopes they’ll be able to get more games and controllers to accommodate the number of kids who are interested. The library is also considering making video games available for check out for kids to use on rainy days at home.
“But right now we’re focusing on buy-a-book,” she said, referring to the Queens Library campaign to help fill its shelves in light of budget cuts. “Books always come first.”
“But we do accept donations,” she hinted.
Asante said he would like to see more children be able to participate, but with only one controller to share, playing time is sometimes cut short. “I have to give them three, four minutes each,” he said. “Once we get another controller, it’ll be way smoother, more organized.”
The young players don’t seem to mind the brevity of the game playing. As each child finished his or her turn driving down the football field for a touchdown, each soon gathered around lively games of Uno and Sorry.
And of course, there is always one last thing to do before the sports challenge begins, said Diamond-Velox: “They have to finish their homework first.”
Queens Library game nights
Where: Queens Library branches. Visit queenslibrary.org. Click on events for more info.