Engage with learning this summer at the library

Pioneer Library System
Summer Learning Challenge

Summer at the library may not look quite the same as past years, but the mission for Pioneer Library System and its Summer Learning Challenge hasn’t changed. 

A mission of inspiring innovation, engagement and learning continues this summer and into the future as the library adapts to its communities’ needs. Children, teens and adults all can find safe and enriching activities to be part of during the Summer Learning Challenge, which runs through Aug. 15. 

While many activities continue in a virtual setting, the Pioneer Library System has resumed outdoor program opportunities at its branches as of June 1, so keep an eye out for upcoming in-person program offerings. Some of the features being offered locally include: 

• The Tecumseh Public Library goes on the road for weekly Story Times at Slick Humphrey Park, taking place at 11 a.m. on Monday mornings. Engage with activities and also check out the Story Walk that runs alongside the walking trail that wraps its way around the park. 

• McLoud also has added a Story Walk that makes its way around the walking trail at Veteran’s Park. Stories at each of the areas will be changed out periodically so there regularly are new tales to engage with. 

• The libraries’ meeting rooms again are available to be reserved for events. Contact the McLoud library at 788-4132, the Shawnee library at 275-6353, the Tecumseh library at 598-5955, or go online to www.pioneerlibrarysystem.org/rooms for more information. 

It's clear there’s a level of fun and entertainment that goes into summer activities offered by the library. But the literal name change the library has made from “Summer Reading” to “Summer Learning” indicates the shift in mentality from being just about books to the well-rounded experience that is available. 

These aren’t new concepts. For years, summer library activities have pushed the value to young readers in avoiding the “summer slide” associated with several months out of school.  

The American Library Association looks at summer slide as a factor in both math and reading skills for students, particularly in students younger than high school age. A 2016 report conducted by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association division of ALA, stresses the important role libraries can play during the time students are out of school. 

“This is a call to action for libraries to broaden their focus beyond reading activities, especially during the summer months,” reads part of the ALA report. “Reading is an important element of summer learning, but the integration of activities that is focused on learning overall creates stronger high-quality opportunities to mitigate the summer slide that many families living in poverty face.”  

The Collaborative Summer Learning Program, a cooperative effort of libraries developing and implementing summer efforts in libraries, provides guidelines for goals for young readers in multiple age groups, with one of its targets being the summer slide. CSLP defines goals for these groups – Early Literacy, Children, Teens, and Adults. For example, for new readers, establishing self-confidence, building an early love of books and making the library a community destination for young children and their families are among CSLP’s stated goals. 

How does all that translate to readers in local communities? PLS has set goals for activities through Summer Learning Tracks for all ages of customers. Some activities are as simple as creating a picture or written review of a book to learning how to speak “Pirate” from the Mango Languages database offered for card holders. And many activities, like undertaking a nature scavenger hunt, can be undertaken by the whole family. 

But while the concepts aren’t new, the delivery methods have been altered over time, particularly in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Even as the world and libraries along with it slowly begin to move more toward full pre-pandemic service models, some elements have been changed. 

“We have a lot of students who have been staring at screen for hours a day every day for months for school,” said Aaron Pence, computer training center manager at Norman Public Library Central. “We’re looking for things that they can do to get away from those screens and really doing things.” 

That’s the idea behind this summer’s series “Nailed It! Teen STEAM Edition” and a corresponding program “Made It! Kids STEAM Edition” for ages 8 to 12. Participants will receive physical kits for each activity, with topics ranging from gardening to cooking to basic engineering concepts. Each series will run during June and July. 

These programs aren’t put together at random but actually draw their inspiration from the “Oklahoma Works” list of the most critical occupations supporting the state’s economy. Many of the participants already are of working age and all are, or soon will be, looking toward a career path, and the library is giving them exposure to many popular and successful ones from this spark. 

Readers of all ages can contribute to the library system’s goal of six million minutes learning this summer. When that goal is met, the Pioneer Library System Foundation and the Pioneer Library System will make a donation of books to local health departments in Cleveland, McClain and Pottawatomie counties. Similar post-summer donations have taken place the past two years and have put thousands of books in the hands of young children throughout the library’s service area. 

Participants in all age groups also are eligible for prize incentives which will include Lego and technology-centered kits for children, a drone for a teen winner and a Fitbit Inspire workout monitor for an adult participant. 

However, the bigger prize comes in what’s gained moving forward through experiences and expanded knowledge.