Sandwiched among 200 kids of all shapes and sizes, the two buddies, Emma Lee Henry and Jordan Plant, jumped and clapped and giggled.
While the duo stretched their arms to the ceiling, Emma Lee's grandma, Denise Henry, rested in a chair in the back of the room. The 79-year-old considered the Largo Library's "We've Got Rhythm" her chance to take a "grown-up time out," she said.
Last week, the Largo Library kicked off its summer program, "BeCreative@Your Library." Along with seeing a full house at the "We've Got Rhythm" performance, which included librarians showing off their musical talents, more than 350 youngsters signed a pledge to commit to summer reading.
Even before its relocation to a new building in 2005, the Largo Library was a popular gathering spot during summer break, said Mercedes Bleattler, youth services manager for the library.
"But there's no question that with the economy, people are using library services even more this year,'' said Bleattler, who has been with the library since 1999.
The summer reading program includes two divisions: an elementary level for beginning readers through 12 years old, and a teen level for middle and high school students.
Kids of all ages are invited to participate in reading challenges and attend musical performances, craft workshops and an end-of-summer party to see whose reading tops the list.
Participants sign up for the challenge of reading a certain number of books through the summer. If they reach the goal, they'll be rewarded during festivities in August.
“My daughter, Jessica, is just starting to read, and we'll be here a lot this summer," said Shannon Corbitt. "Not only does she love books, but we can't spend much money traveling elsewhere."
The reading program is free for library patrons and is part of a collaborative effort with libraries across the state.
To help parents with the challenges of a tough economy, the library is repeating programs twice a week — on Wednesdays and Saturdays. That way, working parents can more easily slide in a trip to the library, Bleattler said.
"It used to be that I'd see only mom and the kids come in, and these days, it's more a complete family that comes in together and we love that,'' she said.
"The library has been a godsend for me in the summer ever since my firstborn, Emma Lee's mom, was in elementary school 20 years ago,'' said Denise Henry. "By the look of this crowd, I think the secret's gotten out.''
As she stayed with the younger set downstairs, her grandson, Branden Henry, 13, took a break upstairs in the teen room.
"He's new up there, and he likes it because it doesn't look geeky,'' she said.
The teen program, subtitled "Express Yourself," includes a series of creativity workshops in which kids will work with photography, poetry, jewelry and music.
On Thursday, 33 teens participated in the first workshop, "Does Your Life Have a Soundtrack?"
That's twice the size of last year's opening teen event, said Chandra Hill, a library assistant in the teen room.
"Thirty-three is a great number," she said. "Remember, this is the first week. Last summer, 33 was the big number at the end of the summer. The number is only going to get bigger.''