Berne teenagers finalists in statewide video contest

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Sparks fly: Thorne Sperry opens The Way Things Work by David Macaulay among the bookshelves of the Berne library in a video a group of teenagers submitted for a statewide contest. After the video cuts to a sparkler alight, Perry appears dressed as a scientist, with the book in hand. The Berne video was a finalist among three throughout the state.

BERNE — A box draped in a white sheet was a transformative device on the floor of the Berne library. In went a gray-haired man after reading a book, and out crawled a baby boy.

Imagination was the theme of the video, titled “Berne Spark a Reaction” and created by teenagers at the library this winter. Each actor was pictured reading a book amid the library’s bookshelves. The video would cut close to a sparkler, then back to the reader, wearing a character’s costume — as if transformed by reading.

The state Education Department announced the Berne video on April 2 as one of three finalists in the 2014 New York State Teen Video Challenge, part of its Summer Reading at New York Libraries program.

The contest is held in each member state by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which awards $275 for the best video, with $125 going to its associated library. Contestants were directed to promote reading by interpreting the CSLP slogan of the summer for teens, “SPARK a reaction.”

The other two finalists in New York were from downstate, submitted by the Malverne Public Library, in Nassau County, and the Harborfields Public Library, in Suffolk County.

The teenagers in the Berne video are John Shahen, Kelley Doolin, Thorne Sperry, Terrik Kobryn, and Laura Simpson. Kobryn and Shahen wrote and played music for the video on acoustic guitar, and Doolin and Simpson directed.

They were overseen by Kathleen Stempel, the assistant librarian and youth-services coordinator for Berne. When the library moved to a new, larger location this fall, formerly a church, Stempel wanted to organize a group of teenagers to advise the library on what books they’d like to read and what resources they’d use. Library Manager Judy Petrosillo said teenagers are the most underserved group in the community.

The local Girl Scout troop no. 1758 submitted a video, titled “Girl Scout Spark a Reaction” that wasn’t chosen for the finals. Fifteen cadets and seniors filmed their video during a snowstorm while staying at a lodge in Camp Is-Sho-Da in East Greenbush.

A group of bored-looking teenagers in the video are visited by book-weilding fairies who persuade the teens that books are awesome by describing their characters.

“Books open up doors,” Jean Forti, the troop’s co-leader, said of the video’s message.

The girls in the troop also created benches for a reading area they designed for outside of the Berne library as one of their Silver Award projects.

The video challenge is an appeal, meant to excite teenagers to read and see the library as a fun place. The Berne library is holding an open mic night on April 11, as part of National Poetry Month, but also to accommodate teens.

Stempel, who holds story time for kids at the library every week, says it is not that teens or the coming generation is not interested in reading. Young people who aren’t inclined to read just haven’t discovered the right books to immerse themselves in, she said.

“The difference” between watching films and reading, Stempel said, “is their brains can imagine differently than a producer producing what they want you to see. When you read the stories, you can imagine.”

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