The month of April felt like it lasted 5 years and never really showed up considering all that winter weather we saw. (Blizzards in April have got to stop.) May was never-ending and far too busy. Then June showed up before I could blink. And suddenly school was over. It’s summer. Now what?
Our summer routine looks pretty relaxed by all standards, except for the constant re-application of sunscreen. Nothing about that is relaxing… nothing at all. There are the trips to the beach, the park, the picnics and play dates and sticky popsicle-covered fingers touching everything in sight. Bedtimes can be flexible and sand can be found virtually everywhere. Then there’s the day camps, sports camps and everything in between (like sunscreen) but remember just a few short weeks ago when you would wrestle your elementary school kid into the kitchen chair to do their homework? Or heck, maybe even your teenager? I’m glad to have a break from the homework, but I don’t want my son to lose what he learned this past year. That’s where the library comes in to save the summer.
Here in the Twin Cities, we are so darn lucky to have a great system of so many libraries with amazing summer reading programs to keep our kids motivated to read all summer long. In the metro, we have MELSA, Metropolitan Library Service Agency, which “is an alliance of over 100 public libraries in the seven-county Twin Cities metro, working together to bring the best library services and programs to you.” For example, this means that those of us living in Dakota County can still check out materials from the Anoka County Library, or any of the MELSA libraries. As someone who lives in Washington County but works in Ramsey County, I can attest to the wonderful convenience that MELSA has provided for Twin Cities residents.
All of the MELSA libraries have different summer reading programs for kids and teens and all of them involve prizes! Personally, I love that I don’t need to incentivize reading on my own and the library will do it for me. Not only do the reading programs encourage reading, but they also reward good behavior and kind deeds, like paying someone a compliment or helping out a parent with a chore around the house. Prizes vary across the counties and libraries. They most often include a free book, gift cards, waterpark passes, baseball game tickets or Minnesota State Fair tickets.
- Anoka County Library is focusing on Summer Adventures. Collect stamps for reading and exploring to earn prizes.
- Carver County Library has a fun program called A Universe of Stories. Kids and teens use activity sheets to track their progress for prizes. There’s also an app for the more tech-savvy folks.
- Dakota County Library is running its Summer Discovery program. There’s a handy online tracker to simplify the behind-the-scenes work for parents too.
- Hennepin County Library offers the opportunity to complete Read, Write, Draw forms for kids. They also offer Best Book Ever reviews for teens in order to win prizes. Information can be found on their page. And don’t forget to check out their events calendar for all kinds of fun activities! My son loves Bruce the Bug Guy!
- Ramsey County Library is also using an online tracker or you can get the app if that’s more your style. If you really prefer to have a tech-free summer, you can pick up a paper tracker at Reference desks at all the branches. More information can be found on their site
- Saint Paul Public Library has Summer Spark which focuses on Challenges (reading) and Experiences (at the library). There’s a simple 10, 20, 30 books-read benchmark system and you can find out more about their experiences and programming here.
- Scott County Library is running its Summer Spotlight reading program. There is an app where you can log reading in various ways, such as pages read, books read or time spent reading. Their website has great tutorials on navigating the app as well.
- Washington County Library is offering a program called Summer Adventure at Your Library. A cute little alien, Zorb, who wants to tag along with kiddos to learn more about our planet through library adventures. Activity trackers can be picked up at any of their branches to log progress. More information can be found on their page regarding this, their teen summer reading program and even one for adults!
Bonus: Washington County Library is running a “Show Your Library Card” campaign where you can show your library card at certain establishments to receive deals, discounts and even freebies. A list of the bargains can be found here.
It didn’t take us long to discover the FREE scoop at Culver’s! I will be using this as our in-home incentive for finishing books throughout the summer!
There are so many library programs running all summer and into the school year too. My son feels he has outgrown story times. He loves the performing groups, game clubs and hands-on experiences with gross, creepy-crawlies that I would never volunteer to handle. You can also try your hand at virtual reality or even make something with a 3-D printer.
It is also worthwhile to note that a number of the MELSA libraries offer no late fees for children’s accounts or programs where they can read down their late fees. Please note that these programs are for kids only. (Which means I can’t read away my library fine for holding onto the copy of Brene Brown’s latest book for an extra week!)
Mamas, the libraries are here to help and I for one am here for it. And let’s be really real, you know you can rent movies too, right? I let my son check out a movie for every two chapter books he finishes. It’s a great system we have developed. And sometimes a mom just needs a break too. Perhaps to catch up on the latest recommendations (ahem, anything by Gillian Flynn!) with a glass of wine while the kids play in the yard? Count me in.
We will be spending a lot of time at our libraries this summer. They are a fantastic one-stop shop for all kinds of air-conditioned summer fun… sunscreen not needed.