More than summer reading

Local libraries bring fun and learning with summer programs

Summer library activities in Lyon County are about more than reading. Rob Knipe, at left, and Luke Knipe put together supports for a model suspension bridge at the Tracy Public Library’s robotics club. The library has several different engineering and building kits kids can use.

You might not think a small-town library would be a busy place right before a June weekend. But the Balaton branch of the Marshall-Lyon County Library was having a pretty lively Friday morning. A crowd of around 10 kids came to hear Christina Izquierdo read books inspired by songs, like “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.”

“He’s got the sun and the rain in his hands,” Izquierdo read. “Have any of you had a lot of rain?” she asked.

“Yes!” came the answer. “A lot of farms had flooded fields,” one boy said.

Later, the kids used paper plates and pipe cleaners to make an octopus from “Octopus’s Garden” — another book featured at storytime.

Summer might be known as a time for relaxing and having fun, but it’s also important to keep kids’ minds engaged, area librarians said. That’s one of the reasons why local libraries offer summer reading and learning programs. This summer, the Minneota, Tracy and Marshall-Lyon County libraries are all offering different programs and activities for fun and learning.

“It’s to get (kids) doing things, to keep up their learning,” said Mary Beth Sinclair, children’s librarian at MLCL.

“It helps them, to read during the summer months,” said Elana Nomeland, assistant librarian at Minneota Public Library. Continuing to learn and practice reading can help kids retain their skills when school starts up again, she said.

Nomeland said the Minneota library sees plenty of use over the summer, from kids and parents attending the weekly storytime program, to teens coming in to use the public-access computers. Over the summer, Minneota has a reading challenge program where kids can earn incentives, as well as a storytime on Wednesday evenings.

“We have different people who come in, and do different things,” like crafts or activities, to go along with the story, Nomeland said. Besides being fun for kids, the events bring together parents and community members, she said.

This year, MLCL is doing a summer learning program, instead of only a reading program, Sinclair said.

“We’re making it an all-around experience,” she said, with challenges designed to get kids out in the community — for example, visiting their local farmers market or museum. The summer reading program at MLCL includes activity challenges for kids at different reading levels, as well as weekly activities at the Marshall, Cottonwood and Balaton library locations.

At the Balaton library, Maryann and Clara Pagel were turning in their activity sheets to win a free book.

“Once you get 15 (activities), you get a book. When you get 30, you get a book bag,” Clara Pagel said.

So far, Sinclair said, “June was very busy” for the children’s library. More than 200 kids had signed up for the summer learning program. MLCL also has resources like World of Wonder backpacks, take-home learning kits with books and activities that kids can check out.

At the Tracy Public Library, summer programs include a weekly storytime, as well as a robotics club for kids ages 8 and up. Kids can build vehicles and more using kits available in the Tracy library.

Last week, Luke Knipe was carefully studying the instructions to build a model suspension bridge out of Lego-like pieces and cording.

“I wanted to build something impressive, and this is impressive,” Knipe said.

Other projects the robotics club have worked on include an air-powered grabbing arm, and a working model bulldozer. Knipe said one of the kits could build models of construction equipment like a crane or a truck — “Mostly things you find every day,” he said.

This is the third year of the robotics club, said assistant librarian and club adviser Rob Knipe.

“We wanted to try a new activity with the kids,” Knipe said. Attendance varies from week to week, but the club does have a few regulars, he said.

The robotics club started with the help of a SAMMIE area library system grant, said Tracy librarian Valerie Quist. This year, a donation from Minnwest Bank of Tracy helped the club purchase new building kits.

The robotics club meets Wednesday afternoons at the Tracy library. Storytime is held on Tuesday afternoons. Quist said summer library programs offer another way for kids to have fun, and keep their minds active.

People interested in learning more about summer reading and learning programs can check out their local libraries in person, or online. Information on area libraries in the Plum Creek Library System can be found at The Marshall-Lyon County Library also has kids’ program information at its website, and both MLCL and the Tracy Public Library post news about upcoming events and programs on their Facebook pages.