Summertime reading is no sweat for some Fairfield teens.

Those looking for fun on a hot, humid afternoon didn't have to look far Wednesday as the Fairfield Public Library offered volumes of enjoyment at its Teen Summer Challenge kickoff.

At the main library, Teen Librarian Nicole Scherer and her team were busy entertaining a group of sixth-graders and up in the Rotary Room. All who registered for the summer reading program were entitled to a free slice of pizza, candy, soda and a range of fun activities.

At one table, kids could draw designs on Post-It notes and add them to a gallery arranged on a wall. At another table, teens played Book Bingo, crossing off book titles on game cards as they were called out. In one corner, a group molded Play-doh into favorite movie icons. Others played Super Mario Bros. video games at a computer station.

"This is the first time we're doing this, to get teens excited about our Summer Challenge," said Scherer. "We think the summer is about exploring the world around you. Reading is an important part of that ... but so is seeing a fascinating movie, getting to know new people, learning new skills and volunteering. Where most libraries' summer programs are focused on just reading, we are challenging teens to go beyond that to connect with their community and expand their horizons."

Scherer said the program has already attracted much interest, not only from teens from other libraries across the nation. "Our program is very original and other libraries want to replicate it," she said.

One facet that makes the program distinctive is how the participants go about signing up and interacting. "Kids join a custom-made social network, a site powered by Ning.com," said Scherer. "They create a profile and log their activities, posting status updates, videos and pictures. It's modeled on Facebook, but it's completely closed to the participating teens, so it's very safe and family friendly."

Scherer said oversight by adult staff and interactivity is key to the program's success. "Library faculty and other participants can comment on each other's progress and have dialogues about potential activities and pursuits," said Scherer. "For the teens, to have adults be enthusiastic about what they're doing is very empowering, especially for those who are not the most eager readers."

Library webmaster Merry Mao added, "This is a good way for teens to get their creative juices flowing. The library is a great destination for young people, with so many resources."

Teen's feedback was positive. "My language-arts teacher Mrs. O'Donnell at Tomlinson Middle School told me about the program -- it sounded like a fun way to spend a couple of hours with my friends," said Isabella Huban, 13, of Fairfield.

Madeline Gill, 16, of Fairfield, said she had heard about the program through Fairfield Ludlowe High School's Edline web postings. "I didn't actually know what we would be doing, but I figured it would be fun as the library always offers entertaining programs."

For more information about the Fairfield Public Library's Teen Summer Challenge and recommended summertime reading lists, go here: http://bit.ly/15JmzZy