Ready to read to a robot? Roanoke County Public Library recruits ‘Pepper’ to encourage young learning

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — October is National Book Month, so the Roanoke County Public Library brought in a robotic friend, “Pepper,” to motivate the younger generation to read.

National Book Month was first created in 2003 by the National Book Foundation to celebrate the importance of reading, writing, and literature.

“Roanoke County Public Library was the first public library in the United States to recruit Pepper as part of our team,” said Michael Hibben with the Roanoke County Public Library. “So it’s something we’re really, really still very excited about to offer the community.”

With children constantly surrounded by screens these days, officials say Pepper has encouraged more kids to pick up books and read since 2018.

(Photo: Hazelmarie Anderson/WFXR News)

“Everybody really likes Pepper, and it’s just been so much fun having her be a part of our library programming, both with programs like ‘My Robot Reading Friend,’ where kids can book a time to read to Pepper,” said Hibben.

That includes Sadie Brannen, who recently got the chance to read to Pepper.

“I’ve never read to a robot before,” said Brannen.

Even though it was the girl’s first time reading to Pepper, she has one suggestion for all her friends: “Go to the library. It will be fun because you can read to Pepper, the robot.”

Children can also learn more about coding with this robotic buddy.

“We have periodic programs, coding workshops with Pepper,” said Hibben. “It teaches coding concepts and robotic programming with this very advanced robot.”

While Pepper is geared towards children, the Roanoke County Public Library says adults are welcome to spend time with the robot. In fact, plenty of families set up reading sessions with Pepper, officials say.

For more information on Pepper, click here.

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