Odell Public Library Summer Reading Program

The theme for the 2017 Odell Public Library’s Summer Reading Program is “Reading by Design” and Director Cathy Grafton has worked hard to provide a variety of programs around that theme. This year’s focus is on STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs, creating and learning with a special emphasis on hands-on creativity.

The Summer Reading Program runs twice a week from June 5 through July 14, culminating with a family lunch picnic, games and awards for all readers. The program is geared toward kindergarten through 6th graders and attendance has grown steadily in the past six years when Grafton began working at the library.  The program is so popular that some graduates return for their favorite sessions with their younger siblings. Tanner, who will be a senior in high school this school year, was in Grafton’s first summer program and now serves as an intern for the program helping the younger participants.

On June 26, April Fisher, aka The Lego Lady, visited the library with bins full of colorful Lego building blocks. Each child in attendance (7 girls and 7 boys) received a small container of Legos, but before they could open their boxes, Fisher began with a story starter program. She read Andrea Beaty’s “Rosie Revere, Engineer” to the group and urged them to think about how they could build a scene from the book. After completing their projects, each child was encouraged to describe their design and how it related to the book. “Did you notice that no one built the same thing?” asked Fisher. “We all have different ideas about what we like and remember from the story. I like that no one built the same thing.”

Next up, Fisher explained how Legos are referred to by the configuration of pegs on their face, with 2×4 being the most popular size. She then displaced a tower she made as the children were arriving for the program – it had “April” built into the design. She placed bins of Legos on the tables and encouraged the children to create their own name designs using the colored bricks.  View photos from the Lego Lady’s visit.

Shortly after the children finished with their name designs, parents arrived to take their children home. Children could be heard excitedly telling their parents about what they had built or urging their parents to take a picture of their project before they disassembled it. Grafton urged the children to keep logging their reading and reminded them that upcoming sessions would feature a balloon artist and crime scene science.

While encouraging reading is the key objective of the Summer Reading Program, another goal is to help the children have a variety of cultural and learning experiences, explained Grafton. Ultimately, the goal is to create life-long library users so that the children become familiar and more comfortable with using the library. “We want them to have fun at our programs and to associate libraries with a place to explore new ideas and learn new skills,” Grafton said. “The library is a resource for the future.”

Like many small libraries across the state, Odell’s library has a limited budget that has gotten tighter given recent state budget issues. “I’m very careful with the money,” Grafton said, adding she tries to offer the public the best programs she can with the limited budget she has.

“We really appreciate that Illinois Prairie Community Foundation donors realize the value of programs like this and are willing to support us,” Grafton said. The Odell Public Library received a general grant of $1,500 from IPCF to help fund the 2017 Summer Reading Program.

If you would like to support programs like this, please consider contributing to the Illinois Prairie Community Fund’s Annual Campaign. To donate online, click here.

By Michele Evans, Grants & Communications Director