Bright Ideas | February 2024

Expanding Summer Reach: Storytime Art in the Park

Family painting a truck

I was lucky enough to inherit a summer program that both intrigued and intimidated me when I started a new position at Drake Community Library in Grinnell, Iowa, in April 2022. Moving to Grinnell from out of state after working in much larger communities meant that I had very little frame of reference for how a summer program would look in a city of around 9,000 people. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new library has one of the biggest pools of community partners that I’ve seen.

My first summer in Grinnell went by in a blur of learning about existing community partnerships, fostering new ones, planning and presenting weekly outreach visits, and being grateful for library staff who had done the vast majority of summer coordinating before I came on board. As the summer was winding down, I reflected and brainstormed for the next summer. What was working well? What could we improve? I had a lot of ideas, but not a lot of budget to make all of those ideas happen. Then I came across the Baker & Taylor (B&T) Summer Reading Program Grant and was blown away to learn that my grant proposal had been selected as the recipient.

A huge part of our summer programming revolves around our community partnerships. As a part of the Grinnell Education Partnership (GEP), we partner directly with the Grinnell College Museum of Art for eight weeks in the summer to bring weekly art and literacy centered activities to three other GEP summer programs, Storytime Art in the Park to a different area park each week, in addition to being at the weekly evening Farmers’ Market, attending special community events, and hosting our big summer kick-off.

In 2022, we began partnerships with local organizations committed to meeting the food insecurity needs of children in the summer months and the Museum of Art was fortunate enough to receive funding to offer honoraria to these organizations for their expertise and food costs. These partners attended our morning sessions of Storytime Art in the Park providing healthy lunches for attendees, information about local produce, and pastries and fresh produce to take home. Thanks to the B&T summer program grant funding, we expanded these partnerships in 2023 to reach even more people in our community. We coordinated additional special Storytime Art in the Park sessions in low-income housing areas, providing food alongside opportunities to experience literacy and art enrichment to some of our most underserved children and families. We’re excited to build upon these partnerships even more in 2024.

This outreach happens while maintaining regular in-library programming and adding in special events. Support from the B&T grant allowed us to bring a wide range of performers and presenters to the library over the summer. We were able to increase our special guests from four in 2022 to seven in 2023, giving kids and their families more chances to engage with science, insects, music, animals, and more at no cost to them.

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns that had altered the delivery of this well-loved summer program, inheriting it just as people were starting to be comfortable with public gathering and just as in-person library programming was becoming a reality again overwhelmed me. But it also excited me. Being given the opportunity to build upon established relationships and charter new ones to bring literacy, art, food, and fun to our community’s kids sounded like the type of challenge youth librarians live for, and it totally was (and is).—Mallory Snow, assistant director, Drake Community Library, Grinnell, Iowa

Editor's note: Drake Community Library was the recipient of the 2023 Baker & Taylor Summer Reading Program Grant. To learn more about the grant, visit our website.

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ALA Award-winning Program Empowers Students to Improve Their Learning Environment

Hawthorne Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky was the recipient of ALA’s 2023 Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming for their program, "Growing Readers, Growing Leaders." Hawthorne Elementary prepares students to be “Bi-literate, Bi-Cultural, and Bi-Lingual” as it transitions into a Spanish Immersion Magnet elementary school.

The "Growing Readers, Growing Leaders" program, using a Guided Inquiry Design framework, led students through a process to help them embrace the transition in their learning environment. By asking the question, what unites us, the program assisted in creating cultural awareness of Hispanic/Latinx community members and fostering the cultural competence and unity among students.

Pupils identified strengths and areas for improvement in the Spanish Immersion School and interviewed key stakeholders (Hispanic/Latinx teachers, staff, and parents) to find commonalities in life experiences among interviewees. Recordings of the interviews and posters illustrating common themes were displayed during the school’s Hispanic Heritage celebration.

Using the interview findings, schoolchildren continued to collaborate to identify commonalities while discovering stories of inequity, finding that nearly 200 students in the school don’t have access to books at home. In response, students developed a proposal to community leaders asking to purchase 15 books for the students identified.

According to Hawthorne’s school librarian, Jamey Herdelin, “The program engaged students in reflecting on how to make our Spanish Immersion program not just a place where students learn another language, but also a school that unites amidst our commonalities and differences to support each other in overcoming challenges that impact student learning.”

Applications for the 2024 award are now open. Complete information is available at the Jaffarian Award webpage.—ALA 2023 press release

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