Stevenson Library finds new ways to serve the community
Under normal circumstances, Monica Davis’ biggest concern as the director of the Stevenson Library is putting the right books on the shelf. With the library’s limited budget, she can’t afford to buy books that will go unread.
But when the library shut its doors to comply with coronavirus guidelines, her priority quickly shifted to finding other ways she could serve the community. “I was thinking about what I could do to help, and the idea of a food bank kept coming up,” she says.
Along with another friend on the library’s board of directors, Davis reached out to Stevenson Mayor Rickey Steele about running a food bank out of the library, and they began asking for donations through social media.
“Now we go grocery shopping about four times a week with the money people have donated, which comes entirely from the community,” Davis says. “Every time we start running out of money, someone shows up with more.”
Just five weeks into the drive, Davis estimated the Stevenson Library Food Bank was able to raise more than $7,000 to feed about 75 people each week.
Even while running the food bank, Davis and her co-workers have still managed to bring the joy of reading to local kids remotely. A few times a week, they stop to stream storytime over Facebook Live, with some older “kids” also tuning in from time to time.
“It’s mostly something we do for the young kids. But every time I go through the bank drive-thru, the tellers say they listen to the stories and really enjoy it,”
Davis says. “So I think it’s something that brings everyone a little relief.”
Digital storytime isn’t the only way the library expanded its programs to reach people remotely. Through August, anyone can access the full TumbleBook library for free through the Stevenson Library. The TumbleBook library includes over 1,100 digital titles in e-book, audiobook and graphic novel formats perfect for young readers, teens and adults.
Davis hopes the expanded collection of digital books will encourage local students to continue reading even when they aren’t going to school.
“The most important thing to remember is when a child goes without reading they can lose entire grade levels of speed and comprehension,” she says. “They lose up to two grade levels over the summer, so with more time away they could end up losing four grade levels by the time school starts back. We really don’t want that.”
When it comes to motivating kids to read more, Davis suggests trying not to be beholden to academic programs like Accelerated Reader requirements. The AR program assesses a student’s reading level and assigns them a score, which can be used to track their progress and help kids choose books on their reading level. While AR can be a helpful guide, Davis has also seen students turn away books they might find interesting because they won’t get AR credit for them.
“We have a lot of Disney books and Winnie the Pooh books for young kids that they don’t even look at,” Davis says. “If the books aren’t on AR they won’t get points for them, so they just don’t read them.”
Instead, Davis encourages parents to find books that line up with their child’s interests. When one of her colleagues had a grandson who didn’t enjoy reading but loved to bass fish, she ordered books on bass fishing.
“Now he’s spending his time reading those books because it’s something he’s interested in,” she says. “The biggest thing is finding books they really relate to and will read every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.”
Looking for ways to keep your reader engaged while school is out? Try taking a few of these steps to unlock your student’s inner bookworm.
Make It Special — Set aside a specific time and a comfy place to read for a little while every day. Make reading a part of family time and children will start to look forward to it.
Picture It — Don’t overlook the power of picture books for young children. Looking at illustrations can help them flex their imaginations and even develop oral language skills as they create their own story between the images.
Rhyme Time — Rhyming can help young children hear the sounds within words better, which will improve their reading skills. Try challenging your child to rhyme words while you’re cooking or cleaning up around the house.
Social Reading — Teens are especially social beings, so using technology to connect with others can make reading more engaging. Introduce them to a favorite author’s blog, or encourage them to start an online book club with their friends.
Take An Interest — Even students who aren’t avid readers can get into a book when it is about something they love. Find books that align with their interests, and let their own curiosity do the rest.