JCPL summer reading program starts June 1, aims to use fun and stem ‘summer slide’

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Brothers enjoy a book in the children’s section of Johnson City (Tenn.) Public Library. The library’s summer reading program kicks off June 1 and runs through July 23.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After a particularly challenging year for many schoolchildren, parents and teachers alike, the Johnson City Public Library’s (JCPL) annual summer reading program is as important as ever, JCPL Director Julia Turpin said Tuesday.

“What we really want to do this year is help those teachers out, help those parents out who worked so hard to get these kids learning throughout the school year, keep them on grade level,” Turpin said. “Part of that is just reading, reading, reading over the summer.”

The “Tails and Tales”-themed challenge kicks off June 1 and runs through July 23. The animal-themed program — part of an annual nationwide effort — centers around “challenges” readers set for themselves in pre-school, school-aged children, teen and adult categories.

The children’s program took its curated book bundle program up a notch during the pandemic and is seeing much higher usage by patrons than before COVID.

Participants can register for the challenge beginning June 1 (there is no pre-registration) by clicking below, and learn more about the program at any time:

The library is now open during traditional hours, and Turpin encouraged families to visit and browse for selections to include in their program participation.

“We’ll have some limited on-site programs for school-age kids, teens and adults, but the reading challenges themselves are all going to be in the Beanstack app,” Turpin said.

The online platform allows participants to register, track their reading and win virtual “badges.” Beanstack includes a mobile app, “Beanstack Tracker” that can be accessed free in any app store.

Readers of all ages can win prizes throughout the summer as they complete reading goals and do related activities.

Turpin said JCPL learned a lot during last year’s totally virtual operation and managed to attract several hundred participants for a fully virtual summer reading program in 2020. That’s far fewer than the typical 800-900, but Turpin said “we just didn’t know what to expect.”

The children’s area underwent a makeover when the library was closed during the pandemic.

She said one good way to mix in-person with this year’s virtual aspects will be for families to visit ahead of the weekly storytime sessions that will be posted online Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and stay up for 24 hours.

“Children can come here, get their books, get the craft to take home and then participate in storytime from home, so it’s kind of a hybrid model this year. Hopefully next year we’ll be fully on site, back to normal, big events, but this summer it’s a little bit different.”

Turpin said the program dovetails with a beefed up summer school effort this year to help children who aren’t quite on grade level due largely to the disruption of remote learning.

“They can use the reading that they’re doing through us for the school program and the reading they’re doing for the school programs as part of the summer reading program,” Turpin said. “The two go hand in hand.”

Some additional events included in this year’s challenge are:

  • Art and short story contests: prizes will be awarded, art will be displayed in the library, stories will be compiled into a book in the library’s collection. Open to all ages (separated into divisions).
  • Pet adoption: The Humane Society of Washington County will bring dogs and cats to the library for people to adopt.
  • For kids: Zoom sessions with Bays Mountain staff about wolves (June 3) and birds (June 10). 
  • Virtual storytimes and crafts.
  • Virtual Animal Crossing: New Horizons event on June 24.
  • For adults:  In-person book discussions: the first one is June 10 on the book “How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals” by Sy Montgomery.
  • Two Dungeons and Dragons Adventure events in July.

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