June 21 marks the start of Alpena County Library's perennially popular Summer Book Club for children.
Library staff is expecting an influx of kids that day as they begin signing up for this summer program that makes reading both fun and rewarding.
"Last year we had approximately 800 signed up, but 600 who actually went through and participated and did some part of the reading," said Children's Librarian Mary Clute. "It's a pretty hopping place during the summer."
News Photo by Diane Speer
Alpena County Library is putting the finishing touches on craft packets for the annual Summer Book Club that kicks off next week. Crafts for the first week of the month-long club include an Australian boomerang wall-hanging, African tribal mask and Egyptian necklace. Shown at work are staff member Linda LaCross, volunteer Amy Banny and Children’s Librarian Mary Clute.
Children ages 3 to 12 are invited to register beginning on June 21 at 9:30 a.m. From 11:30 to 2 p.m. that day, the library will host a picnic featuring a hotdog lunch available for $1.
Those who sign up to participate are asked to read 15 books as part of the club, and report on the them at weekly activities. At the end of the month-long program, participants are treated to a big summer carnival held at Alpena County Fairgrounds.
This year's theme is One World, Many Stories. All the activities and crafts are planned around the theme and will include "visits" to Africa, Egypt, Australia, India, Vietnam, Japan, Celtic Germany, Russia, United States, Mexico and Brazil.
"This year we went with the State of Michigan-wide theme," said Assistant Library Director Jeanne Ludlow. "In previous years we've sometimes chosen our own theme because it fit with NOAA or something we were doing here at the library."
Ludlow said in the last couple of years the library has decided to go with the statewide theme because the state puts out many materials that make doing so convenient.
"The state makes recommendations of some possible crafts, provides support materials like posters and T-shirts, and has a reading list," Ludlow said. "Their website supports the whole program. You can go in any direction. Different libraries use different pieces of it, and it is a free service."
Ludlow also said that most public libraries do summer reading programs for children, though in varying degrees.
"Our program is a month long and it's very intense, meaning that we have crafts all hours that the library is open and we man our desk to take book reports all hours we're open," she said. "Then of course there's the big carnival at the end that we have as a reward to readers. Many libraries do a much smaller, less intense program."
Because the program is large in scope, many volunteers are needed to make it all work. According to Clute, a good 60 community residents volunteer their time to sit in the library and listen to book reports given by children. Additional volunteers also are required to help with the carnival.
Through it all, library staff focuses on the importance of keeping children reading during the summer.
"If a child continues to read whether in the book club or on their own, they maintain their reading levels so when school starts back up in the fall, they are at the same level or higher so it's always a good thing," Clute said.
Several favorite authors keep showing up time and again when kids are selecting books to read for the club. Among those favorites are Jonathan Rand for his scary books and Barbara Parks for her Junie B. Jones series.
Clute thinks kids participating this year will be excited to see that the library has purchased many new children's books with the book club in mind.
"We have purchased a number of new paperbacks just recently to catch their eye and for something new," she said. "There are a good couple hundred new books that we've bought."
Clute and other library staff members have been planning details the book club for months. The planning starts the day after the summer carnival ends, but they really begin gearing up in earnest in December and January.
"We start ordering things then and putting together plans of what we want to do," Clute said. "Now that we're following the state reading program, it's a little easier. They give us things we don't have to search quite as hard to find."
For more information about this year's Summer Book Club or to volunteer, contact the library at 356-6188.