I had the pleasure over the past month to take part in two community outreach events through my internship. What a rewarding and wonderful experience to bring the joy of the library to kids who otherwise may not be able to either visit the library or have access to books and learning outside the classroom.
The groups of kids we visited were both in the local neighborhood, one was in a community clubhouse and the other a school. All the kids were about 3rd through 5th grade, although I’m sure there were some younger ones too. What was amazing is that these kids were as my colleague said, “hungry” for books! They literally attacked the books when it was time to choose new ones to take home.
Both programs were essentially the same format and highly successful. Attendance is volunteer, so these kids want to be there! The theme was tied in with the summer reading program and began about 4 weeks ago. While there were new children in attendance, many had been attending each week and were familiar with the flow of the program. Each program began with an educational session in which we interacted with the children about knights, princesses, castles and medieval weapons (to go along with the Midsummer Knights Read theme). Many hands went up when questions were asked and they were excited to hear what the topic for today would be which was court jesters!
There were lots of smiles and wide eyes as a story was read and then the children worked hard on a craft. There were also crossword puzzles and coloring sheets. The kids loved all the activities. For an hour long program, it was packed full of fun.
One of the two groups gets to choose books to take home and return ones they’ve read. It’s done on an honor system and they were all very respectful of returning the books. It seems to work similar to a bookmobile model where we bring the books to the kids because there is really no feasible way for them to get to the library. The community these children live in is essentially an immigrant neighborhood, with lower income families, where there is no bus service and it’s a bit of a long walk, especially in the hot Chicago weather. To be able to bring to them a “mobile” program each week and feed their strong desire for learning and books is what will keep them hopefully interested in learning throughout their childhood. It also brings them a positive experience of reading and learning that they may not be getting at home or in school.
When I saw these children run for the books, attack the stacks we had, and search for something particular because they liked a series or a subject it was a event I never saw before! I loved it! What was disappointing to me and them was when we didn’t have enough of a subject or the next in a series for example because of the limited resources. Yet, once I knew what they liked, I could find another book in the piles that would probably appeal, and except for one or two instances, they took it home. I wanted to make sure these kids, who were so incredibly “hungry” for books to not find one they would like!
I can’t think of a more rewarding experience as a librarian then to see these young people RUN for books and learning opportunities!