Library encourages kids to ‘read for the gold’ this summer

During Liberty Hill Public Library’s ‘Messy Monday’ activity this week, kids painted using their feet. (Courtesy Photo)

During Liberty Hill Public Library’s ‘Messy Monday’ activity this week, kids painted using their feet. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lauren Jette

While Olympians will be vying for gold medals in Brazil later this summer, readers right here in Liberty Hill will be reading their way to gold medals through the public library’s summer reading program.

To help fill the long days of summer, the library is also hosting more than 80 daily events, from Messy Mondays, Bots and Books, shows and presentations, to craft activities.

“We have over 80 programs this year. We have something every day, sometimes twice a day,” said Library Director Angela Palmer.

“Every year, my favorite is the star gazing party. The Austin Astronomical Society comes out and they bring fancy telescopes and it’s always really neat. I like that one and I also like all the messy days we have.”

In addition to the activities, the library is also hosting several performers, including some favorites from previous years, along with some new ones.

“This year, we’re trying a lot of performers that we’ve never had before,” Palmer said.

“We have Joe McDermott, who’s one of our favorites, but this year we also have Lucas Miller and the Bee Lady and a dinosaur paleontologist, (and) the owl guy. The Big Rig Petting Zoo will be fun. I really like them all.”

Last summer, Palmer said 7,000 people attended various programs offered, and she expects to beat that number this year.

“In the past year, our circulation and the number of people just keep growing,” she said. “In May, our circulation was up 38 percent over the previous May. It was the third busiest month since I’ve been here. It just keeps getting busier, so we expect to beat that 7,000 mark this year.”

In order to make sure everyone can enjoy the shows and performances, Palmer has scheduled two times for each show, to better accommodate the crowds.

“It was really crowded, so this year, we’re trying to do two shows so we can spread it out a little bit. So we’re paying double for every show, but it’s fun. It’s the highlight of our year,” Palmer said.

Donations and sponsorships from the community have helped make the double shows and reading program prizes possible.

“We are so grateful to our community that they donated. We’ve had prize donations, monetary donations. It’s been really great. It helps buy the kids prizes and helps us pay for the performers,” Palmer said.

In between all the events planned at the library this summer, kids are also encouraged to ‘Read for the Gold’ by participating in the summer reading program, for children up to 12 years old.

“What they do is they sign their name (on a reading log) and for every five minutes they read, they mark off a torch,” Palmer explained. “When they get that completed, they bring it in and we take their picture and make a poster and put it on the wall. Then they get to pick out a prize and a spirit stick.

“They can do up to three completed logs. One log is 300 minutes, so one log is a bronze, two is a silver and three is a gold. We’ll be handing those out at the awards ceremony.”

The awards ceremony will be August 11 at the library, and wrap up the summer reading program.

“We switched it up this year. It used to be that we handed out all the prizes at the end, but now we’re doing it as they fill out a log and it seems to keep them motivated and keeps them going,” Palmer said.

For those avid readers slightly outside the age range for the children’s program, don’t worry—the library also has prizes for teenagers and adults.

“For the teens and adults, what we have is for every book they read or listen to, we give them a raffle ticket and they put their name on it and review the book if they want, and we have 67 different prizes,” Palmer said.

The raffle tickets can be put into a box for whatever prize they want a chance at winning, including gift certificates, books and more. After the two week sign-up period at the end of May, Palmer said there were about 450 kids, 75 teens and a dozen adults signed up, although she feels confident that more will join in as the summer marches on. Planning an event for every day of the week for the summer is a tall order, even for much larger libraries, but Palmer and her volunteer staff of five make it happen.

“It’s a lot to choose from. We figure even though our library is really small, we do more than most of the big libraries around here,” Palmer said. “My old library, for instance, had 14 or 15 employees and they are doing 18 to 24 events. We know that in Liberty Hill, there’s not lots to do in the summer, so we try.”

The best part of all these events is that they are free and open to all.

“Ours is free, it’s not a camp, we want the people to have something free for their kids to do,” Palmer said. “That’s our goal, and to keep them reading, but the kids are doing great with the reading.”

Palmer said there were about 250 people in attendance for the first Messy Monday of the summer this week and while it was crazy, everyone had fun, staff included.

“The staff loves it. I can’t thank them and praise them enough. They work really hard,” Palmer said. “They do such a great job and they’re really friendly and they love seeing the kids get all excited about their books… It’s just a great time of year.”

While the events kicked off this week, it’s not too late to join in on all the reading and fun, Palmer said.

“We are doing sign-ups during the whole thing, so we want to encourage people to still come in. It’s never too late to start,” she said. “We want people to come by and know it’s always free. They don’t have to be a card member to join. We’d love for them to get a card, but if they don’t, that’s okay. We’re here to serve the community and make it fun for kids in the summer.”

The calendar of events can be picked up at the library, which is located at 355 Loop 332, in Lions Foundation Park, or found on the library’s Facebook page. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact the Liberty Hill Public Library at 512-778-6400.