Exciting programs, projects coming to the library this summer

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

You’re 5 years old, and you’re looking for Friday morning dinner and a show because 8:30 is past your bedtime.

Best place to find it?

“‘It’s Showtime at Your Library!’ is the theme of this year’s children’s summer reading program,” stated Chatfield Public Library Director Monica Erickson.

She is excited to pull back the stage curtains and show off plenty of performers for a great fun-filled, book-exploring summer reading program. It begins this Friday, June 7, with some slippery snakes arriving at the library courtesy of Snake Discovery, followed by the reprise of the Lunch at the Library summer lunch program.

Erickson shared, “We’ll have special programs every Friday at 10 a.m. all through June and July. The Friday programs are usually geared to preschool through perhaps age 12, but anyone is welcome to come. All will be in the lower level meeting room except for ‘The Wild, Wild Wet Show!’ on July 19, which will be held either in City Park or Groen Park – we will evaluate road construction and other factors as the date gets closer, then we’ll tell about it. There will be water, and everyone will get wet.”

The director outlined the events on the reading program calendar, stating the program’s second event will feature master guitarist and yodeler Troy Flemming on Friday, June 14, followed by historian Arn Kind and “Pirates: Predators of the Sea” on Friday, June 21. The Wonder Weavers storytellers are slated to take center stage on Friday, June 28, and Magic Bob will show off on July 5. Friday, July12, promises a spectacle with “Aliens: Escape From Earth” by Science Tellers, and the final guest event will be “The Wild, Wild Wet Show” on July 19.

“Also, our yearly fairy garden workshop will be held on July 30 at 2 p.m.,” Erickson stated. “This is for 8- to 12-year-olds, and preregistration is required. Storytime will continue to be held every first and third Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. from June to August.”

Erickson encourages young readers to stop in the upper level of the library before or after the special presentations to pick out books that will change the scripts of their imaginations and maybe even their educational futures.

“There are so many benefits of summer reading. Children who don’t have ready access to books during the summer months are in danger of that summer slide where they can lose up to two months of learning by the time they return to school in the fall,” Erickson said. “Those who read during the summer consistently score higher in reading and even math when they return to school in the fall. They need a steady supply of opportunities to learn and practice developing skills. The summer reading program provides these opportunities and reminds kids that reading is not just for learning, but is also really fun. They will earn tickets for completion of various activities listed in their reading folders – minutes of reading, weekly creative challenges, summer reading bingo. Tickets may be used to purchase prizes at the Scholastic Book Fair, which will be held at the library July 24 to July 26.”

She pointed out that the weekly challenges are a thrill for those who choose to make them part of their summer reading acts. “One of the best things about our weekly challenges is how they encourage the kids to give free reign to their creativity. The kids can come in and work on these challenges any time they want. A great variety of materials are left out for them to use to create to their hearts’ content,” Erickson explained. “What an absolute treat it is to see the fantastic creations they come up with and the pride so evident in their faces as they share their projects with us!”

Furthermore, there’s a special scene added to the summer reading program that involves everyone who wants to be part of a bigger production. “We plan to do another cooperative art project again this summer. Everyone contributes to a beautiful piece of art that gets hung up in the library. It is so fun to hear the kids say, ‘I helped make that!’ when they come in. We are hoping this gives them a feeling of importance and even some ownership of the library,” she stated. “The library belongs to everyone, and that includes kids!”

The library staff gets a giggle out of hosting the reading program and its events. Erickson said, “We enjoy seeing the excitement the kids have for the programs. I take a million pictures at summer events and always get the biggest thrill out of seeing the wide eyes and gaping mouths on closeups of the kids just as some incredible animal or reptile is brought out or some performer just wowed them with some amazing feat. Seeing them bent over, deep in a belly laugh or raising their hands in eager anticipation to volunteer or ask questions is just as thrilling.”

She added, “We also love seeing new faces each summer. The exciting programs bring families in that maybe don’t make it to the library very often and some that may have never been in the library before at all. If one of our programs results in introducing someone new to the library and all it has to offer, that alone makes it a success.”

Accompanying the children’s program is the teen summer reading program for participants 13 to 18. “They are so busy, it is hard to get any programs in at a certain time, so we have passive programming for them that allows them to participate whenever they have time to stop in at the library,” Erickson said. “Also, teens fill out simple reading logs for each book they read, and these get entered into the end-of-July prize drawings. Teens can stop in at the library and complete various activities for a chance to win weekly gift cards, too.”

Erickson invited everyone who’d like to stage a summertime reading marathon to get in on the excitement. “The summer reading program is fun! Free access to great performers, so much to learn and enjoy, entertaining challenges, multiple avenues for creativity, rewards for reading…the library is a great place to meet or run into friends, play games and work on cooperative projects. It is free, fun and very good for your kids. And the library is here for everyone and has something for everyone.”

The director reminded library program participants that not only do they get to join the staff for a show, they’re welcome to stay for dinner.

“Lunch at the Library will be served from the lower level of the library again this summer on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. from June 7 through Aug. 30,” Erickson said. “It’s provided by Chatfield United Methodist Church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Alpha Delta Kappa and community volunteers. Denise Pagel is the community coordinator, and youth are encouraged to bring a sack lunch or have one provided to them by volunteers.”

This is the third summer that Chatfield Public Library has collaborated with the local churches to offer a community dining opportunity for children and youth in the library after the summer reading program’s performances.

Pagel pointed out, “Through community conversations, the library lunch program was initiated in 2016. Knowing there are hungry children in our community during the summer motivated us to serve this need. Besides feeding children, we also show them a community of caring. The library graciously offered us their space in view of the fact that many children are spending the day at the library. We also have access to a refrigerator and storage space, and in the event of inclement weather, we have space to serve the lunches. Lunches on Friday are run in collaboration with the summer library reading program, served after the event, typically downstairs. A sack lunch will be provided free of charge at the Chatfield library, and the program is intended for children and youth, but adults are welcome also. Grandparents in our community helping to care for their grandchildren during the summer have enjoyed this service as well.”

Lunch in the Library is made possible through donations to the churches that provide the food, Pagel stated. “We are operating on a grant from the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Our highest numbers are on Fridays – 60 to 80 – due to the reading program event at the library. Items such as individual fruit or applesauce cups, pudding cups, granola bars, Rice Krispie bars and apple juice are some of the needed items, and for monetary donations, checks can be made to the ‘Chatfield Weekend Food Program.’”

The joint partnership to hold ecumenical vacation Bible school with Chatfield United Methodist and Chatfield Lutheran has brought forth an opportunity for those children attending to bring food donations to the altar each day as well.

“The coordinators and I collaborate to help plan the collection. For example, children may be asked to bring breakfast items to VBS for Tuesday, such as granola bars, cereal, Pop Tarts, et cetera. This has been a great teaching opportunity as well of caring for one another. Items collected help kick off our school weekend food program.” She added, “As for library lunch volunteers, emails are sent to past volunteers for needs of preparing or serving the lunches. Individuals may contact me if interested in helping. I am fortunate to have the Alpha Delta Kappa group assisting with the program. Who better to help connect with our young people than teachers?”

Pagel commented, “There are many ways to support children in our community, such as the library lunch program, weekend backpack program, elementary snack program for children in kindergarten through third grade, and the Chatfield Community Food Shelf. I’m appreciative of my volunteers to help make these programs work. I’d like to especially thank Marlene and Larry Luiken for their dedication to packing and delivering our weekend backpacks throughout the school year each week. For more information on any of the programs, contact me, Denise Pagel, at 507-273-3188 or at denpag@q.com.”

Finally, Erickson has exciting news to share about the library itself. “Our library improvement project begins in August! Our entryway will be transformed – Prairie School and Craftsman elements of the original building will be incorporated into the new design. New carpet, paint and lighting will give the whole library new life,” Erickson concluded. “We are so grateful for all the generous gifts the library has received through the years. We have been carefully saving and investing for a long time in order to make this project happen.”