Summer reading program underway at library

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 9, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Looking to keep young minds sharp and to stave off the “summer slide” for students out of school, the Sterling Heights Public Library has begun its summer reading program, with prizes to be won and programs for all ages to enjoy.

The program began June 7 and runs for two full months, ending Aug. 7. The theme this year is “Tails and Tales,” with a focus on animal stories. As usual, there will be structured reading goals with prizes to incentivize reading — and thinking — all summer long. For more information or to register as a participant, visit shpl.net or call (586) 446-2640.

The library, located at 40255 Dodge Park Road, has held a summer reading program each year since 1980, even last year during the pandemic, when the theme was “Imagine Your Story,” focused on fairy tales. Last year’s program was entirely remote, with curbside pickup due to COVID-19. Turnout was low as a result.

“I think patrons were too overwhelmed or experiencing pandemic fatigue to think about summer reading, which is too bad, because that is when the enrichment that reading provides can be really beneficial,” Amanda Itria, the programs coordinator for the library, said via email. “I think this year’s program can really help patrons get back into a routine of reading after a disruptive 2020.”

Patrons have two ways to participate. They can come into the library to get a goals-tracking sheet or sign up on the library’s website to track their progress online. There are different goals for different kinds of participants: babies, listeners, readers, special needs, teens and adults.

Along with reading goals, there are others like “visit a park” or “visit the Children’s Art Garden” — an interactive garden at the library — to encourage patrons to get back outside, now that society is climbing out of the pandemic.

Within each category, there will be a drawing for participants to win gift cards. To add extra incentive to complete the entire program, those who finish all nine weeks will be entered into a drawing for grand prizes, which vary among age groups.

Then, during the grand finale party 10:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 28 in the Dodge Park Farmers Market Pavilion, there will be an additional reward in the form of a gift bag containing animal-themed candy and other surprises. The party will feature music, games, photo booths and crafts.

The library kicked off the program June 7 with an “Animal Tails” children’s program featuring Sterling Heights Nature Center naturalists sharing animals stories and songs. Next up is “Birdwatching and Beyond” at 6 p.m. June 17, also run by the Nature Center, introducing people to birdwatching and how to identify local birds, with a fun activity to tie it together. Visit the website or call the library to register.

Another program is “Mock-tails,” set for 6 p.m. June 21, in which patrons will learn how to make non-alcoholic cocktails. This program will take place remotely via Zoom — patrons can pick up an ingredients kit at the library and then follow along in their own kitchen.

Carolyn Sherrill, the library’s early literacy librarian, said the library aims to keep students thinking during the summer recess.

“Summer slide is always a concern for parents and may be compounded by the remote learning that had to take place this year. The library has a whole host of materials and programs to help prevent summer slide,” Sherrill said in an email.

She noted the library’s parent-teacher collection, with drills to keep students’ math skills sharp, and the library’s collection of books for early readers, with new material added weekly. The librarians have also been hard at work designing craft kits and other activities to be rolled out this summer.

“There is something for everybody in the family at the library,” Sherrill said.

Barbara Petrowski, the youth and outreach librarian, agreed.

“The brain is like one of your muscles — you have to use it to keep it in top form, and libraries’ summer reading programs are a great way to combat it,” Petrowski said in an email. “During the school year, reading and learning might not be quite as exciting to students because they are assigned various subjects. But the beauty of summer reading programs is that students have the freedom to choose whether to read for either entertainment or information, whichever they please, and there are books on just about any subject imaginable. It doesn’t matter what you are reading — as long as that gray matter is working, you are keeping it active.”

The library itself just completed a full renovation and has been fully reopened since June 1.

“It’s a great time to come back to see what’s new at the library,” Itria said.

Added Tammy Turgeon, the library director, in an email: “It’s the perfect time to jump into reading after a year of heavy screen time.”