IGNACIO – For James Onions, 7, the Ignacio Community Library summer reading program kicked off with a workout, specifically how to train like an astronaut.
“I was doing jumping jacks and push-ups,” said James, a fan of reading animal books. James isn’t sure if he wants to become an astronaut, but he did like the launch party’s crafts. “I like that we get to make aliens.”
The library’s space-themed program, “A Universe of Stories,” blends science, technology, math, reading and more. Libraries around the country are holding similar programs as part of the national Collaborative Summer Library Program. It’s an effort to continue learning for kids over the summer and reinforces libraries as centers for community and learning.
“One of our main goals at the library is just to get people inside,” said Hannah Horman, youth services specialists for the library. “If they’re not into reading, that’s OK, we offer so many different things.”
The program will continue for nine weeks and includes a variety of free STEM and space-themed activities along with a prize-filled reading program. Activities will include galaxy painting, a puppet show, rocket launches and a visit from Science Matters, a Front Range science-education organization. They also have a star lab, an inflatable planetarium where participants will learn about Native American constellations, Greek mythology and more.
The main events are on Wednesdays, with Lego time each Monday, and board games and space movies, like “Space Jam” and “ET,” each Thursday. Although the programs cater to youths 12 and younger, adults can participate in a “read to the moon” program where each book counts as a certain number of miles to the moon.
Summer reading helps prevent learning loss, or the “summer slide,” which has long-term impacts on reading level and academic achievement. Differences in children’s summer learning experiences during elementary school can ultimately impact whether they earn a high school diploma and continue to college, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
The staff designed the program to encourage people to come visit. Participants don’t have to come to every program if they sign up. However, the more program events they come to, the more entries they get for the big, end-of-summer prizes. This year, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad donated four train tickets and Friends of the Library donated a telescope for lucky winners.
They also focus on effort, not numbers, when it comes to reading. Participants track how much time people spend reading, not the number of books they read, and get small prizes for every improvement.
“For some kids, if they spend 30 minutes reading, that could be huge for them,” Horman said. “So we emphasize quality over quantity.”
While literacy is its primary mission, Director Marcia Vining said the library is about more than books. It offers programs about culture, digital literacy, financial literacy, health literacy and more.
“Libraries are about knowledge and information,” she said. “We’re adjusting to meet what people need, and they need information in different ways.”
The library’s interdisciplinary programming is an exciting opportunity for James’ family and other families in the community.
“Anytime you can have any extra exposure to science and technology, in addition to reading at the library, is just such a bonus,” said Jessica Onions, James’ mother. “We’re really thankful that they have these extra programs.”