Library's summer club helps strengthen community
Suburban Chicago's Vernon Area Public Library kicks off its popular summer library club on June 1. The two-month initiative promotes cultural enrichment for all ages -- through reading, watching movies, listening to music and attending events -- plus the chance to join friends and neighbors in doing the same activities, contributing to community connections. Vernon Area has adopted this year's Illinois Library Association theme, "It's Showtime at Your Library," highlighting the variety of enriching services public libraries offer. The club is free and open to the public. Sign-up takes place throughout June and July at the library, 300 Olde Half Day Road in Lincolnshire.
Summer programs at the nation's public libraries have a long history, tracing their origins to the Cleveland Children's Library League of the late 1890s. The idea -- to constructively occupy children with reading when school is out -- quickly spread through the American Library Association to become a fixture at public libraries big and small. Studies have shown that the programs are an effective way to prevent "summer slide," the loss of learning that occurs during the extended break between school years. Many libraries, including Vernon Area, have expanded warm weather offerings to include activities beyond reading lists and to attract adults as well as children and teens.
At the Lincolnshire-based library, participation in the summer club has grown. In 2017, just over 2,000 individuals signed up. Last year that number climbed to nearly 3,000. Patrons who join the program use a simple bingo card to track their activities -- such as reciting a nursery rhyme, reading by flashlight, making a new recipe from a cookbook or streaming a movie on Kanopy, a free library app. Cards are designed for four age groups -- preschool, kindergarten through fifth grade, teens and adults.
Friends and family members may complete activities together or vie to see who finishes a bingo first. Whether collaborative or competitive, the activities help strengthen a sense of community by providing shared experiences and giving all a chance to participate in the great American tradition of summer reading.
Participants score a small prize -- ice cream for kids and popcorn for adults -- upon signing up and earn rewards for completing a bingo row or column. Anyone who completes the summer library club bingo is eligible to enter a raffle to win valuable prizes like Lego sets, wireless headphones or gift cards from restaurants and retailers.
The summer library club kicks off with a 1--3 p.m. drop-in event featuring hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities from Rockford-based Discovery Center Museum. The event is free and open to all ages. A finale concert featuring Kevin & the Infinite Possibilities takes place Saturday, July 27, at 11 a.m. For more information on the summer library club and events, visit https://www.vapld.info/summer.