Without libraries, what do we have? We have no past and no future. – Ray Bradbury
My kids, like most kids in America, are out of school for the summer. Now, what to do about the “brain-drain” and keep them occupied for three months? Public library summer reading programs, of course!
The local library in my city, the Salem Public Library, offers a fantastic summer reading program for all ages, from preschool, grade school, teenagers, even adults. Yes, I signed myself up for the program too! The kids earn the chance to win prizes for every ten hours of reading (or listening) they do. Plus they can earn extra chances by participating in all kinds of summer activities: outdoor play, visiting a local park, cooking with their adult and so much more. For the adults, there is the Exercise Your Mind Bingo game, with chances to earn prizes for each bingo completed. To complete a bingo, I have to do things like read a book with a happy ending, or participate in a library event.
My youngest is a preschooler, and only my oldest is actually reading by himself, so our summer will involve a lot of reading aloud. So far we have read nearly seven hours worth of children’s books such as I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan and Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D. J. Steinberg. We are reading through the Minecraft Handbook series and the Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. We went to the library on the weekend and filled our book bags with amazing tales. And, I even got a chance to pick up a book for myself!
The children’s section of our city library offers some incredible fun for young people. First off, when I go with my boys, we like to see if the Discovery Room is open. Dependent on volunteer staffing, the room isn’t always available when we go. Most recently, the Discovery Room was set up with stations celebrating the human boy. Displays, games and puzzles showing the human skeleton and musculature, stations encouraging physical activity such as yoga, a hopscotch rug and so much more! One such station asks, “How far can you jump?” encouraging kids to test their horizontal leap. My oldest jumped five feet!
After Discovery Room play, we go to the story room where one of the children’s librarians reads three or four story books and sings several songs with young children and their parents. The books and songs center around a theme and encourage the children to engage with the storyteller in a variety of ways. The theme when we went last time was Bugs! We listened to The Fly, by Petr Horacek, Butterfly, Butterfly: a Book of Colors, by Petr Horacek, and Tiny Little Fly, by Michael Rosen & Kevin Waldron. As we leave, the kids get a theme-centered stamp on their hand and a fun coloring page.
Before we can leave the library, we go to the shelves and fill our bags with books. Books! So many books! The children’s story book section is also full of more fun things like puppets and phone booths, all designed to encourage the imaginations of the very young. My children subscribe to a sort of “smash and grab” method of choosing their library books. Or maybe it’s more like a “grab and stash” where they pull books off shelves and stuff them into our bags, usually without even looking at the cover. So when we get home, we have a glorious variety of books to discover.
Besides our city library, I was pleased to learn that my child’s school is providing a weekly library event for students throughout the summer. They can go to the library each week, listen to a teacher or staff member read a story, and select two books to borrow for the week. And there’s also a chance to win prizes if they attend at least five times. I had the day off from work for the first event, so I had the privilege to go with them. We brought home a book on Captain America and a giant book about dinosaurs.
Local libraries are an important part of our communities. No matter what age you are, learning never has to end. Libraries provide learning, entertainment and an opportunity to explore endless worlds. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, whether you have kids or not, I encourage you to check out your local library. I have to agree with Mr. Bradbury, without libraries, what do we have?
What are you reading this summer? Do you have children you’re reading with? What do you love about your local library?