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Out & About: Libraries look to keep summer reading fun during the pandemic

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    Enfield, N.H., resident Elena Trempe, 13, helps Trinity Hill, 10, of Caanan, N.H., with her guitar for her puppet musician at the Enfield Public Library on Thursday, July 12, 2018 as part of their "Libraries Rock" 2018 Summer Reading program. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley news file photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2020 9:37:59 PM
Modified: 7/4/2020 9:37:57 PM

In the months leading up to summer vacation, librarians are hard at work preparing a plethora of programming known collectively as summer reading. There are kickoff parties and story times, craft activities and visits from children’s performers, all tied together for a common purpose: to get kids reading.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in those plans. Even as libraries start to reopen, they remain ever-vigilant. This summer, virtual reading programs have largely replaced in-person gatherings, and there is more self-guidance.

“Summer reading is always such a big deal for librarians, and this year it was such a crush,” said Amber Coughlin, children’s librarian at the Lebanon Public Libraries.

2020’s summer reading theme is “Imagine Your Story,” allowing kids, parents and librarians to place an even greater emphasis on creativity and imagination.

“We feel like a lot of parents are probably tired of looking at the computer,” said Melissa Hutson, librarian at the Enfield Public Library. “They want to get outside and do something with their kids that’s not inside and staring at the screen.”

In Enfield, adults and children alike can sign up for the program and log the books they’ve read online. There will be raffles and prizes awarded for the different age groups. Library staff have also prepared take-home craft activities for children.

“We’re trying to encourage that sort of learning,” Hutson said.

And people are hungry for reading materials. Since the Enfield library began allowing patrons to take out physical books again on June 15, Hutson said they’ve prepared 78 bags of books.

“I think we’ve circulated close to 400 items,” she said. “I know the comments we have from people right now are people are glad to have something to read that’s in print. We’ve got some big readers here where they’ll go through three or four books per week.”

Quechee and Wilder libraries are doing a mix of virtual and outdoor events, including dance gatherings and a story walk, where people can stroll through a path while reading a book.

“We did eliminate story times for the summer. It’s too complicated with the masks,” library director Kate Schaal said. “Traditional story times, it’s quite the mix of objects and crayons and markers, and trying to keep kids from handling each other’s is just not going to happen.”

The library is now open to patrons, and families have come in to pick out reading material together. They can also request books for curbside pickup.

“Every family is sorting out what they’re comfortable doing,” Schaal said.

The Lebanon libraries are including adults in their summer reading challenge for the first time this year. The program is entirely online, and participants will track their reading with an app. Prizes will be awarded from area businesses.

“In the past we’ve done lots of things that bring folks in the libraries,” Coughlin said. “We’d do performances, and we’d have kids come in with reading logs.”

Throughout the pandemic, the library has hosted virtual programs such as kids coding clubs. Attendance has been mixed. Staff have recently started doing virtual trivia nights, which have proved to be a hit.

“Kids and families have really loved that,” Coughlin said. “The kids spend so much time on Zoom for school that, a lot of times, they want to do something that’s a little more freewheeling and fun.”

Whatever form it takes, the goal of summer reading remains the same: Keep kids reading, and keep it fun.

“I think it’s cute, and we’re going to have a nice time this summer,” Coughlin said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

Valley News

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