Although this year’s Summer Reading Program will look different than usual due to the changes brought about by COVID-19, Marshall County Public Library’s youth services team has been hard at work to not only re-imagine the program, but to ensure each child or teen can participate.

Including weekly challenge adventures, keeping a reading log, and the opportunity to win prizes as usual, this year’s Summer Reading Program will be offered online, but also in paper form.

“We have worked hard to make sure everyone is able to participate in the summer reading program,” said children’s librarian Sara Dittman. “We realize that many of our families do not have reliable internet access. We have adjusted the program to incorporate learning in a fun way that does not require technology.”

Children’s librarian Hayley Fountain said those without internet can call the library to sign up for summer reading and to request a paper packet, which will then be mailed to them.

“It [the packet] will allow them to record their reading and the activities they do in a paper packet that can be turned in at the library at the end of summer for prizes,” Fountain said.

When children or teens sign up for summer reading online or by phone, they also have the option of requesting a book be mailed to their house from the library until June 5.

“We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible this year while still providing a variety of fun, yet educational activities kids of all ages can enjoy together with their families while staying safe at home,” said children’s librarian, Beth Kerrick. “We know and realize how stressful this time can potentially be and we tried to create something fun with as little stress as possible.”

Teen Services Librarian Ashley Hayden said teens who participate this year can look forward to themed weeks throughout the month of June, including Star Wars and Stranger Things, all full of exciting challenges designed for students who have finished 6th through 12th grades.

“Teens can participate in challenges such as our Stranger Things 80’s Virtual Sing-Off, or show off their favorite fandom in our Virtual Fandom Art Gallery,” Hayden said. “They have the option of following the virtual challenges or doing the non-virtual challenges to earn their summer reading points. They can also earn points through library database usage or reading.”

With just two weeks to completely rework what normally takes six months to plan, the youth services team at MCPL said their goal remains the same: having fun while reading.

“Our youth services team has been working hard to re-imagine Summer Reading and I’m excited about the program they’ve come up with,” said library director Tammy Blackwell. “It’s just another example of how the library is constantly adapting and evolving to meet the needs of our community, even during a pandemic.”

“It’s a whirlwind for us right now but we are making it happen so all students in Marshall County will have the opportunity to participate this year from their homes in some way,” Kerrick said. “We are also still developing programming from our own homes and producing videos to post each week. I am very proud of how our Youth Services Team is working together to share ideas and continue to produce meaningful programs for everyone.”

Registration for MCPL’s Summer Reading Program begins May 4 and will remain open all summer, online and over the phone. To request a paper packet, call (270) 527-9969. More information about the program can be found by going to marshallcolibrary.org.