01-04-12-youth-programming.jpgIt has been said you can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members — its children. If that is the case, there is a lot to be said for the City of Fayetteville and the way it celebrates its youngest citizens.

While nothing replaces the time and attention of parents, the Fayetteville community has several resources that make parenting a little more fun and interesting.

Each fall the community rallies around its youth to support education and literacy with Reading Rocks, a 1.5 mile walk through downtown Fayetteville that draws crowds of more than 20,000. The local high-school marching bands are stationed along the route and provide inspiration to the walkers. Dignitaries from the school system, local community and Fort Bragg attend the event in celebration of local youth.

The funds raised through this program support public education and raise money for literacy. The money also provides grants for teachers and programs that support 53,000 students in the 88 schools in the community. Reading Rocks has raised more than $800,000 since its inception — all of which is used to locally to support literacy in Cumberland County Schools. It’s an investment in the community’s future — it just happens to be fun, too.

Most every parent knows that no matter how old kids are, one of the easiest ways to keep them out of trouble is to keep them busy. Fayetteville Cumberland Parks and Recreation offers local citizens a bevy of choices when it comes to keeping youth engaged.

Boasting 18 recreation centers county-wide and at least twice as many parks that range from school and community playgrounds to sports complexes to multi-use and community parks, the possibilities for healthy activities are impressive.

Recreation-league sports like soccer, football, basketball and baseball are just the beginning of what the community’s parks and recreation department has to offer. Peel back another layer and there are self-guided scavenger hunts, kayak lessons and fishing events at Lake Rim Park, nature totes for check out and nature-themed story time at Clarke Park.

Dig deeper still and find a variety of classes and activities that are offered each month. Archery, stars and constellations, cooking, geocaching, dancing, music lessons, tennis and martial arts classes are just a few of the options available through the parks and recreation department at amazing prices.

When youngsters are restless for some wholesome and fun activities, why not take them for a stroll on the Cape Fear River Trail or to Mazarick Park for an outside adventure? To find out everything there is to know about the community’s green spaces, checkout the parks and rec activity guide at www.fcpr.us.

Another great resource for youth is the Cumberland County Library. Yes, books are available for check out, and sure, they’ve got story-time activities for kids of all ages (including book clubs and visiting authors for mom and dad), but that is just the beginning.

With eight locations throughout Cumberland County, the library is always looking for new ways to become involved in the community. Events like movie night and the many make it/take it activities are popular, but there is still more. Perhaps gingerbread house contests, musical performances, weekend storytelling festivals, gaming clubs, writing workshops and photography and art contests aren’t the first things that come to mind when someone mentions the word library, but these events and many more happen all the time, right here in Fayetteville — at the library.

Check out the calendar of events at their website www.cumberland.lib.nc.us.

Photo: Reading Rocks is one of many youth-based programs that enriches the community and encourages its youth.

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