Cherish summer in Santa Fe with good books, lush gardens, buzzing bees, a trip to the zoo, a science project or two, and the restorative balm of children's creativity.
The silky soft gypsum of White Sands are the perfect place to make some sand angels.
Photo by Tira Howard.
By Tracey Mitchell
Vista Grande Public Library in Eldorado adapts to the new reality with digital programs, curbside service, and books that provide comfort when life resembles a Grimm's Fairy Tale.
When the Collaborative Summer Library Program members chose the 2020 theme “Imagine Your Story” — with a focus on fairy tales, folk tales and myths — no one knew that by summertime, our communities would have been experiencing life very much like a modern Grimm’s Fairy Tale.
Summer is the busiest time of year for many libraries. But this year’s plans are facing a new and uncertain future. The universal question for librarians is: “What do we do now?” Which leads to the next question: “Will there even be summer library programs?”
For most, the answer is, “Yes, but they will be different.” The purpose of summer library programs is to encourage reading and learning during months students are not in school. And that goal is even more important this year.
Children’s and teen librarians are by necessity creative, and luckily, also collaborators. So we all began looking into how we can serve our communities despite the need for social distancing. The obvious answer is to increase online services and content.
Here at Vista Grande Public Library in the Eldorado community just outside Santa Fe, we are a small nonprofit organization that’s begun to adapt to the new reality. One of the first things we did was extend our free WiFi access from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Anyone can use it from the parking lot or our front portal by logging onto VGPL Guest — no library card required. We’re also providing links to free e-books, educational sites and any other resources we can find that will support families. In addition, the children’s staff is also creating videos of storytimes and craft projects and posting these on our website (vglibrary.org) and Facebook page.
And this year, for the first time, VGPL’s Summer Reading Contest will move online. We will be working in conjunction with the New Mexico State Library. Families will have multiple options for turning in reading logs: online, email and drop-off. Families can begin tracking the minutes kids read when the contest begins on June 1 and continue through the end of July. The online reading logs will be available on that date, or click here for a downloadable form. We will also have paper logs available to print or pick up at the library.
Participants will be eligible for prizes from both the State Library and from VGPL. We will be offering prizes for top readers, as well as weekly raffle prize drawings for all participants. Our plan is to also offer some curbside services in conjunction, such as take-home craft kits, STEM activities, and free books. VGPL cardholders will be able to reserve items from our catalog and have them delivered to their car. If the stay-at-home orders are sufficiently lifted, we’ll offer more in-house as well.
Given the unlikelihood of fully reopening for some time, the odds that many people won’t be comfortable in large groups for even longer and probable changes in reading habits, VGPL will soon start offering e-book checkouts. We can also provide people who don’t currently have library cards with “virtual” ones that will enable e-checkouts. Please see our website for updates on both options.
Summer reading suggestions to help “Imagine Your Story”
This summer’s reading theme gives us the perfect excuse to re-visit fairy tales, folk tales and myths from around the world — as if anyone needs an excuse! And those Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson classics are just the beginning.
Younger readers can enjoy updated or “twisted” versions of the old-fashioned fairy tale. Examples include Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, The True Story of the Three Pigs by Jon Scieszka or The Great Fairy Tale Disaster by David Conway. Jan Brett has many wonderfully illustrated versions of folk tales from all over the world, such as The Tale of the Tiger Slippers and The Mitten. For tales with a more local feel, try books like Susan Lowell’s The Three Little Javelinas and Tomie DePaola’s The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.
Older readers and families looking for read-aloud books have a huge range of choices. Here are some series that might be just the ticket: Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, Shannon Hale’s Ever After High and Joan Holub’s Heroes in Training or Caribbean autor Tracey Baptiste’s Goddess Girls, and the Jumbies Series. Rick Riordan remains very popular and has other series in addition to Percy Jackson, including some based on Egyptian (The Red Pyramid) and Norse (Magnus Chase) mythology. The Rick Riordan Presents imprints, produces #ownvoices works, including New Mexico’s own Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun. Terry Pratchett is great for unique takes on folklore. These books are recommended for readers 9 and up, but that’s just a standard reading level. Parents and kids are encouraged to find stories that suit them best.
Tips for raising a reader
As a children’s librarian, one of the questions I get asked most often is, “How do I get my child to read more?” We all know the importance of reading and that having strong reading skills opens doors to educational opportunity. But try persuading children to choose a book over watching a screen or climbing all over your furniture or having a dance party during your Zoom meeting.
Here are some proven tips to encouraging reading:
And the final tip is, of course, to visit your local library often! You can’t beat having a free source of books for all reading levels, on an almost endless variety of topics and a librarian who is eager to help you.