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Sept. 26, 2022

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FVRLibraries makes required summer reading programs more hands-on, interactive and fun

Storywalk in Hearthwood Park example of innovative approach

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
6 Photos
Emmett Reese, 7, and his brother, Cooper, 4, along with their parents, Alena and Spencer Reese of Vancouver, read "Bear Came Along" by Richard T. Morris one page at a time circling the playground at Hearthwood Park.
Emmett Reese, 7, and his brother, Cooper, 4, along with their parents, Alena and Spencer Reese of Vancouver, read "Bear Came Along" by Richard T. Morris one page at a time circling the playground at Hearthwood Park. (Photos by James Rexroad for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

For many children eagerly awaiting summer break each year, the annual challenge of summer reading isn’t typically their top vacation priority.

That’s something that staffers at FVRLibraries understand. So, in recent years, they’ve worked to restructure what it means to participate in summer reading so that it incorporates several different ways of learning through videos, hands-on activities and more engaging methods of reading.

“Summer is one of those things where everyone thinks of the library,” said Kelsey Hudson, FVRLibraries’ student and youth partnership coordinator. “We’re trying to go beyond just reading: exploring and learning creating.”

“Learning as a whole during the summer tends to slip and so that’s something that we want to take a different approach to tackling.”

Using an online program called Beanstack, children were provided with a host of engaging activities and ways to track their reading efforts. Rather than having to choose from a list of recommended texts — a process of the past that some library officials said can turn into somewhat of a chore — children were welcomed to create a list of their own of books they were most interested in reading and fill them in as part of an activity book.

The four goals for participating students were: read, create, learn and explore. The activity book provided more than just ways for children to track their reading, but ways to engage with the various libraries throughout the county — from Yacolt to Vancouver.

Virtual and pre-recorded events from community speakers also offered families a way to provide learning materials to their children from home if they weren’t able to get out to the libraries in person.

Children who complete the activity book and each of those four goals by Aug. 31 are eligible to enter to win a FVRLibraries tote bag and a grand prize gift card. Winners will be announced in early September.

Bringing the library to your community

In addition to expanding what constitutes summer learning, librarians have spent recent years making improvements to physical accessibility, such as partnering with community organizations to participate in local events and even holding virtual events.

On Aug. 12, librarians and staff members from Cascade Park Community Library in east Vancouver set up a “storywalk” in Hearthwood Park — a partnership with the city of Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department, which was hosting a movie night.

An example of a somewhat different approach to getting students engaged in summer reading, the storywalk consisted of pages of a children’s book — Richard T. Morris’ “Bear Came Along” — pasted onto small yard signs along a path that circled the park’s playground. As visitors walked the path, they could read each page and enjoy illustrations at their own pace.

“People were interested in it, they were asking us ahead of time, ‘Where’s the storywalk?’ ” said Rachel Ries, Cascade Park’s branch manager.

Ries and other library staff set up tables with free books and goodie bags, a traveling routine they said has helped them access communities who often aren’t able to make the trip out to the physical library during the week.

“It’s more informal, we reach a different audience at these,” Ries said.

“It shows the community what else our libraries have to offer and gives a much more hands-on approach, a lot of people aren’t able to reach us sometimes,” added Bonnie Cobb, a library volunteer.

Community partners who helped set up the movie night at Hearthwood that evening said they, too, had noticed children benefiting from the alternative approach.

“It’s really cute,” said Sonia Courtney, an employee at HAPO Community Credit Union, one of the event’s sponsors. “It’s very involved. Sitting down and reading is sometimes hard for kids to do. This lets them run around a little bit.”

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