This summer, children visiting the Southworth Library in Dryden will not only be checking out books. They will also be building and launching rockets, creating models of the solar system, and making spacesuits at the library’s Summer Kid’s Club.
The six-week program featuring science experiments, guest speakers, and free children’s books is based on the theme, A Universe of Stories!, developed by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a national consortium that promotes summer reading at public libraries.
At the Southworth Library, the program is supported by a $2,750 grant from the Sandy and Jay True Fund at Community Foundation of Tompkins County, which will pay for activities materials and books for the children to take home.
“Without that funding, we wouldn’t be able to do these amazing, cool things,” said Diane Pamel, the library director. “Getting rockets and engines for 12 to 15 kids — that’s not something most small libraries can afford.”
Over the past nine years, Community Foundation has invested more than $1 million in the 33 libraries in the Finger Lakes Library System. The annual library grant cycle, which awarded $182,000 to libraries this year, was inspired by the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund at Community Foundation.
“This grant cycle has had a transformative influence on many small, rural libraries,” said Janet Cotraccia, chief impact officer at Community Foundation. “Vibrant summer reading programs are creating large events for families to gather, create connection, strengthen community, and encourage kids to check out books.”
The space science theme for summer reading programs nationwide was designed to recognize the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.
The historic day will be celebrated at the Southworth Library with a program featuring experts from the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, who will discuss the history of space travel, the first man on the moon, and the future of space exploration. The program, which will also include moon gazing, will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.
Another special event that is geared for kids will be a portrayal of astronaut Sally Ride by actress Sheryl Faye at the library at 2 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19. There will be experiments, demonstrations and free books for all families who attend the program, which is funded by the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund.
Creating educational science programs is not new to the Southworth Library. In 2017, the library was designated one of 55 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) libraries, a program that provides special materials and training to offer STEM education for children.
Pamel said one of the key aspects of the summer program is providing free books for children. “As the kids get their books and take them home, we want them to read them and report back on what they liked and didn’t like and what they learned, so they’re doing more than taking home a prize but really engaging with some of the materials,” she said.
The summer kid’s club begins with a free lunch for kids up to age 18 at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program follows from 12:30 to 2, and is geared for grades K-3 on Tuesdays, beginning July 9, and for grades 4-8 on Thursdays, beginning July 11.
Space is limited for the program, and parents should register by contacting the library at 24 West Main St., at (607) 844-4782 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The program is free and open to the public.