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This Library Program Encourages Kids to Read, Save Money and Be Responsible

High school students Vangelis Velazquez, 16, left, and Anarabel Velazquez, 17, study at the teenscape area at the Los Angeles Central Library. Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo


Some Los Angeles County library patrons with outstanding late fees just caught a lucky break.

The library system will waive unsettled fines for patrons under 21 years old — but there’s a catch.

They’ll need to hang out in the library and “read away” their fines.

Children, teens and young adults can participate in The Great Read Away program by registering at their local LA County library.

When you’re ready to make a dent in late fees, simply sign in with a librarian’s help, read for as long as you wish, then sign out. You’ll receive $5 credit toward your late fees for every hour you spend engrossed in your book.

You can’t surf the internet or listen to music while earning your credit. You also can’t watch movies even if they’re based on a book. (Sorry, Harry Potter fans).

But lots of reading material counts as books, including graphic novels, comic books, magazines, newspapers and eBooks. You can even listen to an audiobook if you like.

For tykes too young to read, a parent or caregiver can read to a child to earn late-fee credit, but it will be applied only to the child’s library fees, not to fines of the person doing the reading.

Read Away program credits apply to overdue fees and also to the replacement of library cards and lost or damaged books and other items on loan.

Library fines for overdue books can add up fast, so it's no surprise parents are grateful for a reasonable solution.  

“The parents express gratitude and relief,”  East Los Angeles Library children's librarian Aleah Jurnecka told the LA Times. “It lessens the burden on a lot of families.”

Several library systems across the country offer similar programs, so check with your local library to see if Read Away is available in your area.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves helping families save money, so look her up on Twitter (@lisah) if you’ve got a tip to share.

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