Discover Literary Heroes this Summer
With the end of the traditional school year comes an overwhelming sense of freedom for children and adults alike. Summer vacation brings what can feel like an endless stretch of days, the hours of which children can only begin to imagine how they’ll fill. Alongside outdoor adventures, creative free play, and some much-needed unstructured down time, families can fill up those long days of summer with great books – endless volumes of which are available in our local libraries.
In Massachusetts – and across the country – public libraries participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program. Each year brings a new theme to the program, and libraries work to incorporate educational programs, celebrations of learning, and constant reading in order to provide a comprehensive summer reading program that not only encourages families to read together, but allows participants’ reading to be supported by educational activities that relate to the program’s theme.
Each library’s summer reading program requires that participants sign up and log their reading time throughout the duration of the program, and most libraries begin their programming with a summer celebration. Then, throughout the summer, special performances, demonstrations, and other events will take place at the library – supporting families in furthering their learning about specific themes. This year, the Collaborative Summer Library Program offers four different programs, each targeted to a different age group of readers. All four of the programs follow a hero-inspired theme, and promote not only literacy skills for all ages but excitement for and enjoyment of books of all kinds.
Most libraries offering summer reading focus on the children’s category, Every Hero Has a Story. Additional program themes include the early childhood theme of Every Hero Has a Story, a teen Unmask! program, and an adult program titled Escape the Ordinary.
Each week in our list of Weekly Suggested Events, we will be highlighting a handful of library events that are part of the summer reading program. Here are a few events hosted by library across the region:
- SPRINGFIELD CITY LIBRARY – Mondays. 12pm: The Springfield City Library is hosting many hero-themed events this summer as a part of its summer reading program. Try out the Superhero Box Car Challenge (East Forest Park branch) which invites families to turn an ordinary cardboard box into an imaginative car. What a great way to practice brainstorming and engineering together! You might try out the Traveling Heroes Paper Dolls program (East Springfield branch) in which you make a paper doll, mail it to someone, and the recipient takes photos of the paper doll tagging along with them for a week. All library locations will also have a rhyming scavenger hunt for children aged 5 and up to complete. 413-263-6828. 220 State Street (central branch), Springfield, MA (FREE)
- MONSON FREE LIBRARY – Wednesdays. 10:30am: It’s storytime at the Monson Free Library for kids ages 2-5! During the summer, the group will meet at various locations throughout the community to learn about and celebrate our local heroes. Please check the library schedule in advance for location information! 413-267-3866. Monson, MA. (FREE)
- WILBRAHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY – Saturday, June 27. 10:15am: Celebrate the kick off of Wilbraham Public Library‘s summer reading club, “Every Hero has a Story” with a performance for the whole family by special guest Tom “T-Bone” Stankus, a lively musician and entertainer! Pre-registration required. 413-596-6141. 25 Crane Park Drive, Wilbraham, MA. (FREE)
- WHATELY LIBRARY – Saturday, June 27. 11am: Children often think that heroes can only be adults with superpowers. What they don’t realize is that they possess the abilities to be heroes, too! For an inspiring start to its summer reading program, the Whately Library presents Mike Bent’s entertaining variety show of magic, comedy, puppets, and music to help kids discover the “superpowers” that already exist within them. 413-665-2170. 202 Chestnut Plain Road, Whately, MA. (FREE)
- GAYLORD MEMORIAL LIBRARY – Saturday, June 27. 11am: Misconceptions about the Earth-Sun-Moon system abound in young children’s media (e.g., the moon is only out at night), and these can lay foundations that make learning the proper content more challenging later in life. Bring your 2-5 year old to the Gaylord Memorial Library today for the first of a new monthly STEM-based series. Today’s program, “Hey! What’s Up?”, will focus on the concepts of day and night, and the roles that the Sun and Moon play in our daily skies. Registration required. 413-538-5047. 47 College Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)
- LEE LIBRARY – Monday, June 29. 3pm – 4pm: Did you catch the last magic show by Ed Pop at the Lee Library? It went down in history as one of the most popular events the library has hosted to date! Today offers another chance to see Ed, as he helps launch this year’s summer reading program in a show for all ages. Teens can also enjoy a pizza party at 4:30 followed by a 5pm magic workshop! 413-243-0385. 100 Main Street, Lee, MA. (FREE)
- WESTHAMPTON PUBLIC LIBRARY – Monday, June 29. 6:30pm: This summer’s reading program theme is “Every Hero has a Story”, so it is not surprising that the theme of swordsmanship might arise in related books! Tonight the Westhampton Public Library invites children ages 10+ to an interactive presentation of sword use by local experts from the Association for Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road, Westhampton, MA. (FREE)
- BERKSHIRE ATHENAEUM – Tuesday, June 30. 1pm: Sara Gardner presents her Kids Dig It! Jazz Heroes musical program at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Adults and children alike will have a great time participating in the interactive jam session and soaking in the sounds of traditional New Orleans dixieland. 413-499-9489. 1 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)
- SUNDERLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY – Wednesday, July 1. 6pm: Heroic characters from literature will arrive in puppet form at the Sunderland Public Library this evening! Caravan’s HEROES uses its beautiful puppets, humor, and audience engagement to teach children what a hero is, where we can find heroes every day, and how they can be real heroes, too. 413-665-2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)
For more information about summer reading programs, check your local library. To begin your summer by reading books containing a common thread of heroism, check out our list below!
Toddlers and Young Children (picture books)
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
- Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
- The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
- The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Children and Young Adults (picture books, graphic novels, and chapter books)
- Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
- El Deafo by Cece Bell
- Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
- The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
- Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow
Teens (advanced chapter books and graphic novels)
- Americans Who Tell the Truth by Robert Shetterly
- Alabama Moon by Watt Key
- Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays by Molly Bang and Diane Wilson
- Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
[Photo credit: (cc) Jessica Lucia]