Flights of Fancy: Summer Reading Program Takes Kids to New Heights
by Margaret Hurlbert
August 12, 2019

This summer, kids of all ages got to reach for the stars and explore space as part of the Musser Public Library’s (MPL’s) “A Universe of Stories” summer reading program. Using a combination of reading incentives and space-themed programs, the MPL helped keep children engaged and learning through one of its most enjoyable summer reading programs yet.

According to Betty Collins, Youth Services Manager, 884 children and 115 teens signed up for summer reading this year, for a total of 999 readers. This intrepid bunch read for a total of more than 371,002 minutes, packing thirty-seven weeks’ worth of reading into only nine. Along with earning incentives to keep them going, such as toys, books, Culver’s custard tokens, and tickets to see the Iowa Cubs, participants also kept their skills sharp and fed their curiosity. Collins stated, “research proves it’s beneficial for children to read during the summer to retain their academic learning . . .. The summer is [also] a great time for kids to go in an educational direction they love.”

For many of this year’s young readers, the space theme of the summer reading program ignited their curiosity. A tradition for many years, the MPL always sets a reading challenge for participants and promises a special event if they meet it. This year, MPL staff proposed that if kids and teens read a combined 200,000 minutes by July 20th (the Saturday after the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing), the librarians would dress as astronauts and walk around downtown.

As the challenge date drew near, Collins saw the number of minutes kids had read would likely exceed the goal. To push participants to the next level, the library staff made the deal that if everyone could read at least 251,954 minutes by the 20th (the distance of the moon from the earth that day) everyone could come down to the library for a lunar party.

The summer reading participants readily took up this new challenge and beat the goal, earning their lunar party. The day of the event, the whole children’s department donned space suits and paraded down second street with the kids in tow. “It was so, so much fun,” recalled Collins. “Even though it was the hottest day of the year, everyone wanted to do it.”

Once back at the library, kids planted an American Flag in the MPL’s rock garden and pretended to bounce around on the surface of the moon. With everyone in such an ebullient mood, it truly felt as if gravity lessened for a while. Afterwards, library staff held a drawing for three Lego deep space rocket kits.

Librarians worked hard to keep the outer space fun going all summer with a variety of space camps held for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Teen readers also enjoyed a number of space related events created just for them.

Now that summer reading has safely “landed” for this season, Collins would like to thank CBI Bank and Trust, whose nearly twenty years of sponsorship has made summer reading experiences like these available to countless children in Muscatine. “We couldn’t do it without them,” stressed Collins.

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