Lapeer’s summer reading program goes virtual

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Jillian Felton / Michigan State University

The Lapeer District Library on a summer day.

It’s normal during the summer to hear stories being read, children chattering and entertainers performing on the lawn of the Lapeer District Library. This summer, the lawn will be quieter. Due to Coronavirus, changes have been made to the Lapeer District Library’s Summer Reading Program. 

Through a variety of measures that follow social distancing guidelines, the program will still be put on as safely as possible for the readers. 

Mary Cowles, a librarian at the Lapeer District Library, has been creating virtual storytime videos for children the past couple months so that they still get to have a weekly story read to them.

“It has been nice to hear parents reach out and say their children enjoy the virtual storytimes,” Cowles said. “I just miss seeing and hearing the reactions that storytime brings out of the children.”

Mother of three, Jennifer Bentz, would sometimes be at the library three times a week. Her child is of those who have engaged in virtual storytelling.

“I’ve done the in person story times with all three of my kids,” Bentz said. “We have been trying to keep up with Miss Mary’s videos because it’s good for them to have story time.”

Cowles also shared that each week, not only will the virtual storytimes still be posted to the Facebook page as a part of summer reading, they also will be having an interactive storytime right outside the library.

“Each week of summer, we will have signs up along the sidewalks of the library that will have pages of stories on them,” Cowles said. “So, although there will be no in-person storytime during the summer, children can still walk around the library and have a story read to them by a family member through the signs.”

Storytime isn’t the only thing that is changing this summer. Laura Fromwiller, an employee of the Lapeer District Library for the past 20 years, said this year the summer reading challenge can be done through your own cellphone for the first time.

“You can join the reading challenge through an app called ‘Beanstack’ where you log hours you read and enter raffles,” Fromwiller said. “If people don’t want to use the app we are offering a paper version of the reading challenge which can be picked up from the library curbside.”

On Tuesdays and Thursdays “Lunch on the Lawn” would happen. People would bring their own blanket, a basket of snacks, and hang out under the shady trees of the library lawn.  

“Usually children get to have their lunch and listen to a story on Tuesday and watch entertainers on Thursdays,” Cowles said. “This year there will only be curbside lunch pickup and we will be having a virtual magic show.”

Jillian Felton / Michigan State University

The outside of the library where curbside pick-up will be.

Summer will be different for the ones who usually attend.

“We have made almost every Lunch on the Lawn unless we were on vacation,” Bentz said. “It’s a great free event to attend for a few hours and you get to see friends and performers.”

Jillian Felton / Michigan State University

The library lawn where events would take place during the program.

Of all the changes that have been made to the program, one thing that is staying the same is the encouragement by the librarians to pick up a book and read.

“The brain is like a muscle and you have to keep working it,” Fromwiller said. “Reading is a really good way of retaining information and this program is only designed to encourage people to read.”