This summer, my kids and I are participating in the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club at the San Antonio Public Library. We’ve done the program for several years in a row, but this year we are raising the bar. Our goal is to not just read the requisite number of books, but also enjoy the events that are part of the summer reading program and to get to know all the library has to offer. In fact, we are going on a library grand tour, trying to visit every San Antonio Public Library branch in one summer.
You are invited to do this challenge alongside us, and keep track of your progress. If you visit 10 branches before the end of the summer reading program on August 31, let us know (via Instagram) and you will have a chance to win a library goodie bag. When you post about your library visits, be sure to use the hashtag #acmbmysapl so we can follow your progress.
As Denise explained in her post about summer reading programs, there are lasting benefits when kids keep their reading skills sharp over the summer. They go back to school ready to learn, not having fallen behind.
Once school was out, we went to our closest branch, Landa Library, and signed the kids up for the Children’s Summer Reading Club. (You can also join online.) The libraries have paper reading logs to keep track of finished books, or you can print one at home. To complete a children’s reading log, listeners need to hear 16 books, and readers need to read eight books. When your kids turn in their reading logs, they get a certificate with the Mayor‘s signature, and they can pick out a free book to keep. The library has summer reading programs for teens and adults, too. Adults need to enter four books in their reading logs, and if you submit your log by July 30, you will be entered into a drawing for a prize.
My kids have been making steady progress on their reading logs. The way I see it, the goal is not to finish the reading log as quickly as possible. On the contrary, the purpose is to build a habit of making steady progress towards a goal. You are what do you: if you read a little bit every day as a child, then you are likely to be an adult who reads, too.
In addition to the reading logs, the library’s summer reading program has lots of free special events, too. The library’s events calendar has details, but here are some highlights:
- Matt Sandbank’s Shadow Factory presenting “A Wild Goose Chase,” a shadow puppet show with humor and poetry
- Joe McDermott sings folksy children’s music with humor and energy
- TamboRhythms offers group drumming that’s accessible to all
- Eulenspiegel puppet theater presenting “The Fisherman and His Wife”
- Dinosaur George has a legendary collection of fossils for your young paleontologists
Some of these events require advance tickets; they’re still free, but you’ll need to pick them up from the branch library ahead of time.
In addition to these special Summer Reading events, the calendar is packed with recurring events, like story times, crafts, and LEGO clubs. If your kids would be excited to spend an hour in a room with LEGO-covered tables, then just search the calendar for “LEGO” and you’ll find and event near you.
My kids and are learning a lot on our library grand tour. Here is some of our new knowledge.
The recently upgraded self-check kiosks can check out an entire stack of books at one time. Just scan your library card under the laser, then put your stack of books on the square. It’s much faster than checking out books one at a time. My kids enjoy checking out their own books.
Your kids can get their own library cards, too. However, since I am still the one keeping track of due dates, we usually check books out on my card. You can have as many as 50 items checked out on one card. When my kids get bigger, I will let them use their own cards, track their own due dates, and pay their own library fines.
Poetry is in the 811s of the Dewey Decimal System. The Shadowbank show included a clever rhyme: “Eight eleven is poetry heaven.” Memorizing short poems is easy but keeps minds sharp, and we have fun reciting poetry to each other in the car.
If you want instant gratification, go to the Central Library. Their children’s section is huge and seems to have at least one copy of everything. Also, they seem to have a craft or activity set up almost every day. The architecture is beautiful and the art is playful, including the Fiesta Tower by Dale Chihuly and an irresistible mosaic cow. The air conditioning will cool you down, and there are escalators to ride. The parking garage offers shady covered parking, and the first three hours are free. To enter the parking garage, turn right while driving on Soledad, a one-way street heading north. The River Walk is nearby.
If you want a particular book but it’s not at your local branch, you can find it in the catalog, place a hold, and the library will deliver it to your local branch within a few days. An email will notify you that it’s waiting for you on the hold shelves, labeled with a little piece of paper sticking out with your name on it. It feels like getting a present that’s just exactly what you wanted.
If you live in Bexar County—even if you’re not living in the city of San Antonio—you can still get a library card. If that service is important to you, let your Bexar County Commissioner know. (Not sure which Commissioner represents you? The Bexar County Precinct Finder will tell you.) San Antonio City Council members appreciate hearing good news about the library, too.
Children’s librarians are like wizards. You can ask them, “I’m looking for something kinda like…” and they will make suggestions and show you where to find them in the stacks. This is a boon for reluctant readers. A librarian suggested that my son, F.T., who is going into fourth grade, dive into nonfiction, and it worked. He loves science, and he has been fired up about reading National Geographic Kids books this summer.
The Friends of the San Antonio Public Library are supporters and advocates for the library. They run the BookCellar used book store at the Central library, which is, along with warehouse sales, a great way to inexpensively build a home library. The Friends have groups at many branches; you can join and have a say in how funds are spent on improvements at your local branch.
Each library branch has its own amenities; whether it’s the playground and gardens at Landa or the drive-through window at Encino, libraries have extra amenities like playgrounds and walking trails. As we progress on our grand tour of library branches, my kids are discovering more of these unique benefits. We are looking forward to telling you more about them at the end of the summer. In the meantime, happy reading, and please post about your own library grand tour with the hashtag #acmbmysapl.