Library’s summer reading program in full swing after pandemic-impacted years

The Flagg-Rochelle Public Library’s Summer Reading program is in full swing after offerings were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years, Director Sarah Flanagan said.

‘We have a lot of exciting and fun things to offer this summer’

ROCHELLE — The Flagg-Rochelle Public Library’s Summer Reading program is in full swing after offerings were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years, Director Sarah Flanagan said. 

The program’s theme this year is “Read off the Beaten Path” and programs are offered for all ages. A kickoff event was held June 4 with an ice cream party, lawn games and activities. 

The “Books with Friends” program will be held for ages 7-12 every Monday in June and July from 1:30-2:30 p.m. where kids can bring their favorite book and join friends for reading and activities.

The “Storytime” program is for children up to age six with a caregiver on every Wednesday in June and July from 10:15-11:15 a.m. Each week will feature a different book and activity.

The “Secret Garden Tea Party” program is Saturday, June 25 from 10:30-12:30 p.m and participants can enjoy tea and treats and make their own secret fairy garden. It is for all ages. Those under 10 years old must come with a caregiver. 

“Storytime with Pam Tobler” is July 16 at 10:15 a.m. for all ages. Local author Pam Tobler will read her latest picture book “Lily the Ladybug: Day at the Park.” 

“The UnBook Club” is Thursday, June 23 and Thursday, July 21 from 4-5 p.m. for ages 13-19. The club goes beyond just books and extends to audio books, podcasts, TED Talks and more.

The “Morning Book Club” meets the last Wednesday of the month at 10:15 a.m. Stop by the library to check-out your book. 

“We are excited,” Flanagan said. “This year, we've really been able to fully open and give the kids a cool summer reading experience. After COVID-19, the patron pattern and the way people are doing things have changed. They are way more interested in getting out and just experiencing things. Living in Rochelle, we're in a small community, so we know a lot of people that come into the library. And I think that's important because we've been kind of shut in for the last couple of years."

Library Outreach Clerk Ashley Capes said a “remarkable increase” in program signups has been seen this summer. All ages are being targeted, especially the teenage demographic. She hopes even those who don’t see reading as their favorite activity will still come out and have fun.

“It's not just sitting and reading a book and talking about it,” Capes said. “It's getting involved and having an activity that relates to a book. You don't necessarily have to sit down and read for a certain amount of minutes or pages. Just come and have fun and experience the library and what we have to offer. Experience a book."

Capes said the library has been planning for its summer program since March and called it “a lot of work.” But, she said it’s worth it when she sees regulars come into the building along with new faces. Putting together new programs has also been enjoyable, she said. 

Flanagan said that during the summer, some children don’t read enough and are subject to the “summer learning slide,” which can impact them upon returning to school in the fall.

“What happens is, they move backwards,” Flanagan said. “Where they were at the end of the school year, they spend the first two months of the new school year trying to get their reading levels back up to where they were at the end of the year if they do nothing. If they read and they're exposed to reading, even if that's a parent reading to them or listening to a story here, it helps. If they find an interest in something they like and read, they're more likely to be at that same level or even higher when the school year starts. And that's important.”

The library has worked to act as a resource for students that have had a tougher learning experience at school during the pandemic. More materials are offered there than at school libraries that can help with things like reports. The library is also used by tutors in town. 

“We act as that third space where they can come and get a little bit of extra help,” Flanagan said. “They can order other materials and look at books here. Plus it gets them into the building. We can supplement other materials for school work or they can get into something they like reading here.”

The library director said she and her staff want to encourage the community to come and visit them this summer. 

“We just want people to come and have a good time,” Flanagan said. “That's the most important thing, that people are here, they're visiting and they're reading."