With many of the season’s traditional childhood pastimes sidelined by Covid-19, families can at least look forward to one kid-friendly summer staple: library reading programs and activities.
As entertainment-minded as they ever have been, the obvious difference this year in the programs is, by now, also a familiar difference: they are mostly presented virtually.
What hasn’t changed is the programs’ objective, a treasured summer tradition: to keep kids reading, learning, and engaged over 10 weeks of vacation.
With many library buildings in Westchester off-limits to patrons, summer programs for children have been forced online and curbside.
What won’t be curbed, hopefully, is the enthusiasm of young readers. That’s because children’s librarians have emerged from behind their reference desks to become filmmakers, Zoom emcees, and performers. They are producing streaming story times, singalongs, and workshops — often starring themselves.
Additional library services are taking place at curbsides and parking lots, where families and kids can retrieve books, DVDs, kid craft kits, and registration materials and prizes for reading incentive programs.
“I think it’s more important now than ever that libraries serve their communities as best as possible — especially the kids,” says Ignayra Lopez, Head of Children’s Services at Ossining Public Library.
“Although our programming may look different this summer by being virtual, the content is still rich. We have some programs via Facebook Live, some recorded on YouTube, others are Zoom meetings.”
Ossining will also conduct several bilingual story times at nearby parks, where families can socially distance.
From the online theater workshop provided by Croton Free Library, to weekly story times, these programs are designed to encourage reading — either independently or with caregivers. The centerpiece of library summer programs is reading incentives that ask kids to record, either online or on paper logs, the hours they spend reading. For their efforts, children earn badges, prizes, and bragging rights.
This year, most Westchester libraries have adopted the nationally-based reading incentive program, Imagine Your Story. The theme invites kids to explore books related to fantasy, folktales, fairy tales, and mythology. If ever there was a year to escape reality, this is it, but they can choose as they please.
Choice is key to successful programming, particularly this year. With children emerging bleary-eyed from three months of online schooling, families are eager to find fun activities that provide flexibility and connection to the community.
Family game nights, book discussion groups, and online workshops conducted on Zoom platforms are some ways communities can stay connected. “Our focus” said Amy Kaplan, Children and Teens Librarian at Briarcliff Manor Public Library, “is to provide live interactive programming, where we can talk with each other and laugh with each other.”
Joy Alter Hubel is a freelance writer, librarian and yoga instructor based in Westchester County.
Briarcliff Manor Public Library 914-941-7072
Family game nights, book discussion groups, and phone chats with Amy Kaplan, children’s librarian.
Croton Free Library 914-271-6612
Shakespeare Mini Camp taught by Croton teens, as well as workshops on coding and creative journaling.
Hendrick Hudson Free Library (Cortlandt) 914-739-5654
Fantastic Fantasy Tales, Yakety Yak book talks for 2nd graders, and book chats for older children.
Irvington Public Library 914-591-7840
Grab and Go summertime craft kits, Story Walks, and Friday Evening Pajama Story Times.
Ossining Public Library 914 -941-2416
Highlights: Trivia Tuesdays, Grab and Go kits, Yoga classes, and bilingual story times at neighborhood parks.
The Field Library (Peekskill) 914-737-0010
Heart 2 Art workshops focusing on friendship, kindness, and diversity; Grab and Go craft activities, and prize bags for participating in Imagine Your Story.
The Warner Library (Tarrytown) 914-631-7735
Bilingual Birdies, which is a language and music program, and an Imagine Your Story mission game.