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Going mobile to bring reading into community

Innisfail library launches COVID era summer reading program
WEB Reading in the park
While wearing a protective mask, the Innisfail Public Library's Miss Sherry, the institution's children's programmer, reads a story on July 7 to the young during the library's first park session of the new Summer Reading Club in the Community program. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Innisfail Public Library officials are determined to never let a pandemic get in the way of children determined to discover the magic and joy of reading.

While COVID-19 has forced major changes in service delivery at every public institution, Innisfail library staff members are doing a classic and healthy end around.

They are using the great outdoors, specifically three parks, as a healthy and safe setting for children 12 years and under to experience the wonders of literacy.

“A nearby town was taking their Summer Reading Club into the community for rebuilding community spirit and library awareness, so the town proposed lending us a vehicle to do the same,” said Tara Downs, the local library manager. “Community is about partnerships and building services for citizens, so the more we can do like this the stronger our community becomes.”

The parks program is officially called the Summer Reading Club in the Community. It is a new component to the Innisfail library’s Summer Reading Program, which also includes Reading Logs, Neighbourhood Program and Fun Friday Kits.

“Summer Reading Club is about two things – making reading fun so kids want to read and maintaining literacy levels over summer,” said Downs.

Beginning on July 7, and continuing over eight weeks, the new outdoor reading program will be held three times a week – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – at three different local parks. The library has reserved Fridays for virtual content on Facebook.

The venue for Tuesdays will be at Centennial Park on the west side of town, while the setting for Wednesdays will be Rotary Ann Park behind the Innisfail Aquatic Centre, with Thursdays seeing children heading to the eastside Ritson-Bennett Park near the Co-op. All three begin at 10:30 a.m. and last up to 45 minutes.

The new parks program was developed and is hosted by the library’s much-loved Miss Sherry, the institution’s children's programmer.

After the reading in the parks, library staff are visiting area neighbourhoods to distribute reading logs. They are for children to track in minutes the amount of time they read. When the log is full they can bring it back to the library to enter into a draw for a Dairy Queen treat.

The Neighbourhood Program is also an opportunity to promote all components of the Summer Reading Cub along with another program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, a free literacy program for newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

“It’s another literacy-based program and once again that’s what it is all about. Statistics will show you that literacy is so important for success in life and in school,” said Downs.

The Innisfail Public Library is also reaching out this summer to local seniors. On July 16, from 1:30 to 3 p.m., the library is hosting the Parking Lot Social for Seniors in the library parking lot.

“The Lundgren Centre still remains closed and the seniors are greatly missing it,” said Downs, adding the July 16 events will be an opportunity to provide information to seniors on available services. “It is a way, first and foremost, for seniors to reconnect in a socially-distanced, safe manner.”