Summer Reading Club 2020 Kindles Imaginations with Virtual Fun

It’s a wrap! Summer Reading Club 2020 has come to a close for this summer. Kids had loads of fun as we all celebrated reading with our theme, “Imagine Your Story.” And thanks to our online book-tracking system, readers of all ages were still able to log their books, movies, and activities and win prizes!

With in-person programming on hiatus, we went virtual with a big slate of summer activities including science classes, magicians, musicians, puppets, storytimes and crafts.

Some of this summer’s most exciting programs were Virtual Science sessions presented through our partnership with the Museum of Discovery. These engaging shows were streamed live and shared over Zoom with young people in the online audience, so kids could ask questions and interact with the presenters. For “Messtival Science Day,” young people learned about solids, liquids, and in-betweens from Peggy Thibodeau as she made slime. The next week, kids saw a cool demonstration of dry ice from Thomas Lipham, the Program Director for the Museum.

“You know, it’s really fun in this virtual format, even though it’s new for us,” Lipham said. “It’s exciting to know that they’re engaged at home, and the format allows us more engagement with the families too.”

Other polished programs such as “Tommy Terrific’s Magic Show” brought plenty of laughs and tricks into children’s homes with lots of activity, color, and energy. In one episode, Tommy recruited his somewhat-skeptical family to get in on the action.

Lela Bloom’s well-loved music and puppet show went digital too, in “Fairy Tales, Myths, and Magic.” Bloom’s sweet voice and guitar enhanced the factured fairy tales she told with her puppets as she sang classics such as “Bibbity Bobbity Boo.”

CALS staff brought their own digital flair to the summer, as they encouraged kids to “Imagine Your Story” with grab-and-go crafts, storytimes, rapping library managers, cooking classes, and more. Even our cooking demos carried on virtually, as socially distanced staff members helped each other produce videos.

Grab-and-go crafts were a big hit across the library system. Creative CALS programmers put together packets full of supplies and instructions for fun projects. Some staff members also put how-to videos on the CALS Kids YouTube channel, so kids could follow along and join in on creativity with an online buddy. At the Maumelle Library, one of the online buddies was a talking dog, which made for extra delight.

One of our visitors told us, “My grandchildren just love your crafts! They are amazing! Thank you for putting them together!”  We like the idea that our library kids smile when they get these little bags with new surprises to brighten their days at home. Grab-and-go crafts will continue after Summer Reading Club, so stop by your local branch to pick one up. You don’t even have to come inside—you can use our very popular curbside service, which has allowed thousands of people to pick up library materials safely since the pandemic started.

Storytimes included rapping fairy tales from the Rooker Library, movement and dancing with reading from Terry Library, and whimsical puppets from Nixon Library. Young people were able to see their own familiar storytellers from their library branches, offering them some continuity through the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Summer Reading Club grab-and-go service offered us an opportunity to reach even more young people and teens with crucial support during the pandemic: nutritional assistance. When the pandemic started, our Be Mighty Little Rock staff and volunteers sprang into action to help kids and teens at risk of food insecurity. The possibility of hunger skyrocketed as many parents lost jobs or could not find contract work. Over the course of Summer Reading Club, CALS served almost 50,000 meals. And the grand total of meals served at CALS branches since the pandemic began is 134,645!

It was a very unusual summer, but our wonderful staff worked to serve our patrons in every safe way they could, and we found ways to encourage the love of reading in our virtual world and through curbside service. And we hope we modeled an important lesson for the young people we care about: we’ll do ok if we watch out for each other and keep reaching out even in hard times.

Even when it seems like the world has come to a stop, imagination will keep you going.

Check out the CALS Kids YouTube channel for ongoing virtual programming from CALS! And adults can find more great programming at the CALS YouTube channel.

feature by Rosslyn Elliott