Citizenship, construction, constellations bring children into summer reading fun
Every summer as school finishes, children flock to pools and playgrounds, but books are not always on their minds. Schools and libraries alike must get creative to keep kids reading all summer long.
Librarian Jennifer Wilkins knew something needed to change at Collinsville Public Library’s summer reading program as they struggled to get kids in the door post-pandemic. She wondered what would change if the program were advertised as a family-oriented life skills program.
From that idea, the 2023 summer reading program “Live a Little” was born. Every Tuesday during the month of June, the small library on Main Street invited kids to learn about gardening, constellations, gravity, hammers and nails, cooking, and sewing.
The program was designed and brought to fruition by Collinsville resident and early education student Marketta Adams, Jennifer Wilkins, and Living Democracy student Payton Davis.
On June 6, kids painted terracotta pots and planted marigolds. They learned about the life cycle of a plant and what a plant needs to survive. The following Tuesday, kids learned about constellations and were asked to create their own. They learned how to hammer nails to create string art depictions of their inventions.
Then, on June 20, the kids used their painting and hammering skills once again to build and decorate pinewood derby racecars and learned about gravity during the races. On “pizza day” June 27 children learned all about recipes while making personal pizzas. Then the kids learned how to sew with pre-cut felt templates to make stuffed animals.
To wrap up the program on July 11, the library hosted an event called “My Community, My Responsibility” where kids learned about key parts of Collinsville like City Hall, the museum, and the library and how to be a good citizen. Workers from each organization were asked to attend the program and talk to the kids about their duties.
Town council members, Donna Jones and Jeff Chandler, city clerk Jill Tidmore, Assistant Police Chief Ada Hamilton, and Collinsville Historical Association member Rebecca Clayton joined library staff to sit with the kids as they colored and assembled paper dolls depicting community members to display in the library.
“My favorite part of joining the Library Citizenship Program was getting to interact with the children and seeing the other adults interacting with them as well. Both young and old seemed to really have a good time,” said city clerk Tidmore.
Many of the children had never heard of a councilman or town hall meeting and were happy to color while learning about these important aspects of life in Collinsville.
After learning from the volunteers, kids were asked to fill out a worksheet that asked them what they like about their community and what they’d like to change. Some responses were hilarious as one little girl listed “gas station” as her favorite part of Collinsville, but others had special responses such as 4-year-old Audrey McDow whose favorite part of her community was “city workers.”
Audrey said she hopes to be a police officer herself one day, and Ada Hamilton quickly became her personal hero. “She thinks Ada hung the moon. Now she thinks every time she sees a police car it’s Ada,” said Crystal McDow, Audrey’s grandmother who brought her to the reading program.
Yvonne Patrick, a library employee, helped with the reading program and runs a pre-school reading class every Tuesday at 2 p.m. that Audrey attends.
“I think it’s important for the kids because they get to play and learn with each other and get a little wild in a safe and loving atmosphere,” said Patrick about her class. McDow echoed that sentiment saying that Audrey has learned to share and listen during her time at Collinsville Public Library.
With a curated bookshelf of all reading levels for each themed day, the excited kids raced down to the front desk, eager to check out books related to the skills they’d learned that day.
“This year, we had more people who stayed and got books after it than we’ve ever had,” said Wilkins. “It’s so wonderful for them to come and have a positive experience. We had several that got library cards this year, probably more than any other.”