Evanston Public Library announces summer reading programs for children


Photo courtesy of Brian Wilson

Children work on an art project designed by Sally Battle at Evanston Public Library. This summer, storytimes will involve reading and making crafts as part of EPL youth programming.

Samantha Morris, Reporter

This summer, look out for chalk messages of kindness from children participating in Evanston Public Library’s youth programs.

As part of EPL’s 2022 Summer Reading Challenge, children are busy scratching off squares in a Bingo-like game that encourages reading through activities like creating new superheros and writing poems. 

Instead of Bingo, children receive a Read-o card based on this summer’s theme: a reading journey “Beyond the Beaten Path” that encourages exploration of new genres and authors. 

“It’s a summer program designed to get kids to pick up books over the summer,” EPL Communications and Marketing Manager Jenette Sturges said. “Each time you read a book or do an activity, you can scratch off a sticker on the Read-o card.” 

Each summer, EPL organizes youth programs to encourage summer reading. Activities include clubs, storytimes and contests for all ages. The programming seeks to help students avoid a “summer slide” that affects their education and reading level. 

Between June and September, children can lose up to three months of progress made during the previous school year and fall behind their new grade-level, Sturges said. Reading just five books over the summer can help children avoid this decline, she said, but those without access to reading material at home are especially vulnerable. 

At EPL’s Main Library, Children’s Librarian Kim Daufeldt runs storytimes, including a special “All By Myself” storytime for children ages 3 to 5 years old. In addition to sharing new books, she plans art and music activities around the story’s themes. 

“It’s actually going to be all by themselves for the first time in almost two years,” Daufeldt said. “The idea is that they’re big kids in training. They’re learning to go out and do things on their own.”

Although most of the library’s programming has returned to in-person formats, COVID-19 prompted long-term changes. In 2020, Daufeldt moved storytimes online and designed crafts to use household items. Children’s Librarian Brian Wilson also recorded his storytimes to provide online access.

“We’ve learned in the past couple years to really be flexible,” Wilson said. 

Since fall 2020, Wilson has continued hosting his Caldecott club online. Students in first through eighth grade discuss books and evaluate illustrations on Zoom. A microwave cooking class remains online for kids in elementary school.

This summer, EPL will expand outdoor programming at both branches, including family storytimes at Cornelia Lunt Park and Fountain Square. Through outdoor events, EPL also expands community access to reading material. One initiative, EPL on the Fly!, distributes free books, crafts and STEAM kits to children at parks and beaches. Interested families can learn more about EPL and register for library cards on the spot. 

Summer programs can improve outcomes for people in the community, Sturges said. To continue funding these programs, EPL is looking for donations and planning a campaign this summer to raise money.

“We have an opportunity to make an impact on equity by putting books and STEM kits in kids’ hands.” Sturges said. “Summer reading is a great tool for building equity.”

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