Each year, thanks to the generosity and support of friends of the library, we are able to help our beloved library deploy critical programming that is geared to helping those in our community build a love for reading and learning.
Every year we provide major support to Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Summer Reading Club, a program that by encouraging and inspiring summertime reading impacts young minds and engages parents across our city. Last year, more than 72,000 individuals participated in the “Be a Hero. Read.” themed event, including nearly 60,000 children and teens.
We also partnered with six branches to host summer reading camps targeted to at-risk K-2nd graders reading below grade level. Ashland University capstone students designed reading and writing activities to keep the kids engaged throughout the two week program. Hilltop’s camp featured a beach theme, with students visiting the ocean each day and recording their experiences. Upon completion of the day’s assignment, campers chose a prize from the treasure chest the teachers provided. Linden Branch geared their program to younger students. Their activities were centered around a new book each day, and they made pizza with the children after reading Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza. Overall, hundreds of campers participated in our sessions and 49 graduated from camp (attended 6 of 8 sessions) and were rewarded with a backpack filled with school supplies.
Teens welcomed Angela Johnson, a three time award winner and recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for Teen Read Week in October. More than 950 students attended Johnson’s readings at eight branches, which is part of the library’s Young Minds strategy to promote reading and learning. She told the crowd at the Karl Road Branch about her writing process, then graciously and enthusiastically answered questions from some of the 280 teens in attendance. The following week students put pen to paper and sent thank you letters sharing their interest in writing and thanking Teen Services Specialist Jennifer for the experience. Teens from Champion Middle and East High Schools were delighted to meet Johnson during Martin Luther King Branch’s celebration of Teen Read Week. Many classes prepared for her visit by reading Johnson’s novel First Part Last. Competing in “Two Sentence Story” contests each day of Teen Read Week allowed students to offer their own creative writing.
We should pause and let that soak in for a moment. While it’s important that we measure and attempt to quantify our impact, the numbers don’t really do justice to what’s happening in these programs. Each number represents a child filled with potential and promise. In dozens of cases these are real children who are – for the first time ever – cultivating a love for reading, intentionally expanding their imagination and building their vocabulary outside of the classroom. We have the immense joy of watching kids become stronger readers, which in turn makes them less timid and more engaged students in the classroom, which we get to see when they come back to our Homework Help Centers. Through our programs and a wealth of books, we’re hearing some of the best stories imaginable – the kind that bring families together and builds up our community of young minds. Far beyond the numbers, this is the impact we seek by supporting these reading initiatives.
In addition to fostering reading in youth, we support programs that, collectively, help to broaden the educational, literary and artistic experiences of library customers while encouraging a love of lifelong learning. Hundreds of visitors attend Carnegie Gallery exhibitions throughout the year, featuring work from local artists. Columbus Commons and Easton Town Center Reading Rooms bring the library to the community in unique spaces.
PBJ & Jazz offers free, one-hour interactive concerts designed to introduce jazz and American music to young children and their families; it will commence its eighth season this summer in The Topiary Park. This collaborative effort between Jazz Arts Group, Friends of the Topiary Park, Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the Columbus Museum of Art typically includes story time, the concert and a hands-on activity.
With all these fantastic opportunities, it’s no surprise that the Friends are an advocate for our great library. But the way in which we do it – through place, purpose and experience – matters. By inviting young and older minds alike into these common and now more beautiful spaces, supporting them with tangible, life-affirming reasons to be there, and providing unique experiences that shines a light on lifelong learning, we can inspire every visitor, regardless of age, and help them realize that their dreams are well within reach.