ADDISON COUNTY –– Four-year-old Nathan Stefani eagerly watched Dennis Waring play a banjo made out of plywood and a cheap plastic bucket.
The performance delighted the young audience, and Stefani gave it a thumbs-up review.
“I liked it!” the Middlebury resident said.
Stefani and more than 80 other children and parents gathered last Thursday at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury to watch From Trash to Tunes, one of many performances the Ilsley holds as part of its summer reading program.
Public libraries throughout the county run summer events and reading programs to help kids learn about fun local activities and maintain their academic development after the school year, explained Ilsley librarian Sarah Lawton.
“Kids who go home and don’t read a book all summer long have a huge loss not only in literacy skills, but all the skills that you develop in classroom situations,” she said. “That’s traditionally why public libraries have summer reading programs. It’s a wonderful thing in our community. We have such great teachers and public school librarians who are really pushing kids to participate.”
The Ilsley’s program has carryovers from past summers, including Thursday performances and toddler-parent yoga classes. They also added new programming.
“Tuesdays we’re doing these Tuesday Try-Its,” Lawton said. “We have a different person coming in from the community who has programs or skills or talents that they will share with the fourth-through-sixth grade kids. Those will be more interactive workshops.”
The goal of the Try-Its is to let families know about the fun learning opportunities in the area.
“The idea behind that series is that there’s so many opportunities locally for kids to get involved with, but it’s sometimes difficult for kids to figure out how to start or how to get involved with things like that,” Lawton said. “Our hope is that by bringing people from the community who are involved in programs, kids can get to know who teaches these things and then figure out ways they can get more deeply involved if they want to.”
Another addition is outdoor story time on Wednesday for newborns to five-year-olds.
“That’s for younger patrons,” Lawton said. “It’s basically interactive songs and stories in our back garden.”
On Fridays, the library runs a new media lab for kids.
“We have two brand new iMacs,” Lawton said. “They’re actually MCTV’s computers, and they’re letting us use them for the summer. From 3 to 5 every Friday we’re having a lab studio where the new technology coordinator from MCTV and myself will be on hand to help the kids make short films and learn how to use programs to help you make simplified video games, or different kinds of technology tools that are fascinating, but hard to use at home.”
The library also started a new summer reading program for teenagers, which includes after-hours events.
“We’re providing both a place for teens to sign up and even interact online about reading and books for the summer,” Lawton said.
One of the biggest changes is the creation of a website for both programs.
“I just kind of created a pretty simplistic website that links from our home page for both the youth and the teen program,” Lawton said. “Kids can register on the website and they can go on and blog about the books they read.”
Lawton thinks the website might have increased participation rates this year, which are high for both age groups.
The Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes has added new performers to its lineup of summer activities.
Librarian Rachel Plant said that she reached out to artists from New York City for the first time.
“I’ve got a couple of artists that are coming from New York City that will be doing oil and acrylic paintings and exploring dreams,” she said.
Plant said various Vermont groups will be coming for the first time as well.
“I have Jeh Kulu, which is a West African drum and dance group, coming from Burlington,” she said.
One of the biggest differences from past summers is the level of the performers, Plant said.
“I think that the level of the programs that we’re having is raised,” she said. “We have programs for huge audiences, we have musicians, Backpack Theater, Jeh Kulu, and that’s raised the bar.”
The library is working with the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union to provide daily free lunches.
“I partner with Kathy Alexander at ANeSU. Young kids to 18-year-olds and pregnant mothers can come and get a free lunch,” Plant said. “Then their imaginations are reenergized and they’re fed and ready to go on for whatever they have planned for the rest of the day.”
Plant is looking forward to a full summer of programs and events that will culminate on Vergennes Day in August.
The Lawrence Memorial Library has also added new events and programs to its summer activities docket.
The library started a youth writing program, said librarian Marita Bathe-Schine.
“We had a very small turnout for a writers workshop based on pictures by Chris Van Allsburg,” she said. “His book is ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.’ Over the summer a high school student, Hailey Krempetz, will be the editor for the kids so they will email back and forth and the pieces will be read at a final celebration.”
The library added a new three-day puppeteering workshop in mid-July.
“Usually we do a one-time work shop and then it’s done, but this is three days that kids sign up for,” Bathe-Schine said. “It’s through Hands On Puppets and kids learn to make puppets and puppeteer.”
The program for teens starts next week with some new performers, said librarian Paulita Washburn.
“We haven’t done our first one yet, that’s next Tuesday at 5 p.m.,” she said. “That is astrology with Lydia Solini. She’s an astrologist from Burlington.”
Washburn described another new –– and spooky –– event.
“Jim Stapleton is going to be reading some creepy Vermont ghost stores that originated in the state,” she said.
Washburn hopes that these new events will attract more teens, because their participation rates are low, especially in the reading program.
Most of the other local libraries also have some sort of special activities on offer this summer. Do find out what they are, watch the Addison Independent community calendar or call them at:
• Brandon Free Public Library, 247-8230.
• Lincoln Library, 453-2665.
• New Haven Community Library, 453-4015.
• Orwell Free Library, 948-2042.
• Platt Memorial Library in Shoreham, 897-2647.
• Russell Memorial Library in Monkton, 453-4471.
• Salisbury Free Public Library, 458-0747.
• Sarah Partridge Community Library in East Middlebury, 388-7588.
• Starksboro Public Library, 453-3732.
• Whiting Free Library, 623-7862.
All local librarians emphasized the importance of community support and their gratitude for continued help.
“It really takes a village to do this,” Plant said. “It’s a wonderful lineup of people.”
Kaitlyn Kirkaldy is at email@example.com