Off the Shelf: Read Beyond the Beaten Path

As the school year winds down and the temperatures heat up, public libraries are poised to launch their summer programs. The many months of planning by our staff team all lead up to a busy, fun summer filled with opportunities for our community.


While we advertise the fun, these library summer programs have a more serious purpose. Research continues to confirm that children who don’t have quality learning opportunities over the summer can lose 2-3 months of reading skills in one summer. Because some kids return to school with learning loss, teachers spend weeks reteaching in the fall.


We also know that this learning loss can be cumulative. By the time a child reaches middle school without learning opportunities during the summers, they can lose the equivalent of two years of learning. One study found that summer learning loss accounts for about two-thirds of the reading achievement gaps seen in ninth grade. What some could view as a lack of ability in a child who has fallen behind may actually have much more to do with lack of opportunity. With studies showing that third graders who can’t read at grade level are four times less likely to graduate from high school than their peers, we can see how falling behind, especially in these early formative years, can have long term implications.


The good news is that children who participate in summer learning opportunities can come back to school in the fall ready to learn without any loss in skills. Public libraries seek to fill that opportunity gap. Helping prevent summer learning loss and acting as a learning bridge between school years is what the library summer programs are all about.


Our library has been offering summer reading programs to help prevent summer learning loss for over 80 years. In recent years, a new trend in libraries is to shift these programs from summer reading to summer learning. Reading is still a central part of the program, but high quality learning in a variety of forms is emphasized. We all learn in different ways. Hands-on, engaging experiences help children develop a love of learning and engage their curiosity about the world.


This year’s theme is Read Off The Beaten Path. Like past years, we have booked several big shows, including the annual favorite visit from Blank Park Zoo with some of their animal friends. Other shows include the Big Bang Bubble Show, a magic show, and a one-woman circus act. A change this year is that several of the shows are being offered in the evening to make them more accessible to working families. Three of the shows will be at the Capitol Theater.


We also are offering several camps, which are longer format programs. For teens, we have a three-day Camp Starfish based on the book by that name with two virtual visits from the author, Camp Cardboard based on a book about all the cool things you can build with cardboard, and Robotics Camp featuring the robotics kits that our library has been awarded by the Governor’s STEM Council. For younger kids, we have Jurassic Camp, Stuffed Animal Camp, and several others.


A special summer program that builds on our popular Babygarten class is Baby Sensory. This series of classes will focus on hands-on activities for caregivers and babies to explore. Those that have experienced Babygarten know that the final class of a session includes a fun craft like painting the babies feet to make bird pictures. This summer series will take that idea further and give more chances to learn through the senses.


As part of our initiative to be sensory inclusive, we are offering two Sensory Nights this summer. The one on June 10th will be a great after-hours opportunity for families to sign up for summer reading.


We also are trying out a new double dutch program called Jump on the Move. This program will be going to the city’s day camp each week. The team will also be taking ropes to Juneteenth and popping up in parks around town throughout the summer. We have added double dutch ropes to our collection for checkout, too.


The library will be popping up at several community events, such as the weekly Jefferson Street Farmers Market, the Art Fair, Juneteenth, Pride in the Park, the Vintage Market, and the county fair. You can sign up for summer reading at the Bee’s Night Out at Community Field on June 2nd to receive a free ticket to the game. On June 4th, we are setting up a storywalk at the Big Hollow Youth Jamboree.


Dealt Hand will host a pop up event at the library with over 200 games on hand to play and experts there to explain the rules. All ages are encouraged to stop in and learn about these interesting board and card games and try your hand at playing them.


For adults, we are excited to be bringing back the First Friday series of guest speakers. We are kicking it back off with one of our favorite local speakers Russ Fry. We got to know Russ while he did lots of his research at the library. He will be sharing his program on Blackhawk on June 3rd.


I could go on and on about all the great learning opportunities, but the best way to see all that your library has to offer is to stop in or go to our website. Our summer program officially starts on June 6. We are offering preregistration starting tomorrow, Monday May 16th. You can pick up your reading logs at registration. Just like past years, there are great prizes along the way as you complete your reading logs.


Thanks to all of our community sponsors who generously supported us again this year. You are making it possible for the library to provide high quality experiences for kids and to support families in helping those kids continue learning over the summer to support their continued school success. Your investment in the young people of our community makes a big difference in their long term quality of life and the strength of our community.


See you at the library!