Summer learning is about more than just reading at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Library workers are tackling the effects of poverty and “summer slide” with programs for children and teens — and even infants — that incorporate hands-on activities and crafts.
With a summer learning theme of “Read, Make, Create,” the library’s MakerSpace takes center stage in many of the programs.
“I think it’s important that we kind of stay on the cutting edge,” said Nate Pelley, a library services specialist in the MakerSpace at the main branch.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County boasts 41 locations, three of which feature MakerSpace areas. At the main branch, located downtown at 800 Vine St., visitors can use equipment including a vinyl printer and cutter, laser cutter and engraver, 3-D printers and a recording booth.
Two smaller MakerSpace areas are available at the library’s Reading and St. Bernard locations.
Brain camps and black rocket technology camps are two of the more STEM-oriented programs, emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics while highlighting the MakerSpace equipment and tools.
Brain camps are week-long camps offered in two-hour sessions. Each week, kids learn about a different theme through reading, making crafts, playing games, experimenting with science and creating art. Campers recently learned about circuitry and electricity and in coming weeks will study various aspects of photography and 2-D design.
Age requirements vary from one week to the next, but camp sessions are generally geared toward first- through fifth-graders.
Mini-brain camps also are offered as single two-hour sessions at some branches.
In black rocket technology camps, pre-teens and teens spend four days learning about computer technology and coding as they design mobile apps, animate short films, learn coding languages and create 3-D video games.
“I think that in general the library is moving towards these types of activities,” said Lisa Soper, youth services and programming coordinator for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Although the downtown MakerSpace opened at the main branch only 1½ years ago, the library has long had multimedia offerings, like CDs and DVDs.
“We’ve been like this for years,” Pelley said. “We’re not just books anymore.”
The camps serve multiple purposes, but one of the primary goals is to make people aware of the resources available at the library.
“The hope really is just to expose people more and more to all the things we have here,” Pelley said.
The hope also is that those resources are enticing enough to young people to help achieve another goal — providing learning opportunities for youth in high-poverty areas.
“One of our goals with any type of programming is kind of connecting to some of those underserved populations,” Pelley said.
Regardless of their socioeconomic background, kids can benefit from the hands-on nature of the camps and other summer learning activities.
“I think that children are drawn to investigate ideas in different ways,” said Heather Jobson, a children’s librarian at the Mariemont branch. “Some children are more attracted to ideas through hands-on engagement.”
Kids got a taste of the hands-on nature of the library’s programming July 14 by making buttons in honor of National Summer Learning Day.
Events were also held at three branches that day to celebrate summer learning, including programs by the Cincinnati Observatory, the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Zoo.
Despite the focus on doing and making, the traditional library summer reading programs of yesteryear are still around as well. In an effort to combat the loss of achievement gains from the previous school year, or “summer slide,” library representatives encourage kids to read over the summer.
A read-and-earn program helps by offering prizes to everyone from infants to adults for achieving various reading time goals.
A summer reading camp also targets summer slide and aims to help kids meet the requirements of Ohio's Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
The four-week camp, which takes place this month, provides instruction and one-on-one tutoring for kids struggling with reading who will enter third grade this fall or who were not promoted from third to fourth grade due to low reading test scores.
“We’re kind of concentrating on that age group … to kind of provide some intervention to prevent that summer slide and keep them on track,” Soper said.
While registration is required for some programs, all library summer learning programs are free of charge.
For more information about specific programs, including registration, visit: http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/summerlearn.