The Alcott Elementary library is in the middle of a summer pilot program that makes reading more accessible for kids in the summer.

Connie Murray, a Hastings Public Schools librarian, started the program after receiving a grant from Hastings Kiwanis.

The grant lets Murray and a few other volunteers open up the library, which is on the south side of school building, on Tuesday morning and Thursday evening.

With the library open in the summer, kids can check out books, read and play games. Murray says one of her goals for opening up the library in the summer is to make reading more accessible to the kids on the eastern side of the city.

“Part of it was just having another place for kids to be able to walk to and ride their bike to. As a parent, I feel really good about that,” Murray said. “It’s just another great opportunity to be able to provide another service.”

By making the library more accessible, Murray hopes to encourage kids to read this summer.

Murray has implemented a “game board,” a set of reading challenges for kids to do over the summer. If kids complete the 10 challenges, like reading under a tree, reading for an hour straight or reading with a flashlight, they get $10 in chamber bucks.

“My whole goal was to not make those hard. It was more about making the connections with kids,” Murray said. “During the summer, you kind of slump off with that reading.”

Serenity Johnson, who is going into sixth grade, was the first to complete the challenge. She said she goes to the Alcott library because it’s easy to bike there and get new books.

Murray also hopes that having the library open will help build connections with kids, either getting them more comfortable with reading, the library or with staff.

She said that a few parents have brought their kids into the library to help get them more comfortable with the building and staff before preschool.

“I have teachers who volunteer and come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They’ve been able to meet some of the kids who have been in their class last year or that may be in their class coming next year,” Murray said.

In addition to the Alcott library being open during the summer, the library at Lincoln Elementary opened for summer school this week.

The library grant from the Hastings Kiwanis helps pay for volunteering teachers, supplies, snacks and for systems like the game board prizes.

The library also has outside access through its south door, after moving downstairs and switching with the preschool area.The bathrooms have been converted into Dr. Seuss reading nooks and a teacher workspace.

The library keeps a traditional style, like seating, but also adds a few modern features, according to Murray.

The computers in the library have an app that will read books to kids, while flipping pages and highlighting words. Murray said the app also has a feature to help kids with dyslexia by changing the words’ font.

“When kids have come in here, they know they check out and can find a comfy place to read,” Murray said. “You feel like when you come in here, you just want to stay,”

Murray estimates they have had about 25 kids on average every week. She says there are can be as few as three kids a day and as high as 15.

She said many kids are coming to the library to read Golden Sower books, books that have been voted to be “must reads” for children in Nebraska. Murray said there is a Golden Sower club and kids that read at least four of the awarded books get to have a party celebrating the books at the end of the school year.

“The fifth-graders, when they get out to middle school, they have a jump start on reading some of the Golden Sower,” Murray said.

She also said she is working with the public library system and doesn’t want to compete with them.

“My goal was just adding on to what we already have — almost making like a satellite site,” Murray said.

The program this summer is a pilot. Murray says she hopes to continue it next year, but it depends on how well the program is attended this year and if they can get sponsors.

Additionally, the program may be housed at another elementary school, instead of Alcott.

“Hopefully we can find some sponsors or some grants to be able to support it,” Murray said. “All this was made possible by them (Kiwanis).”

The library got the news out about summer hours during one of the school’s newsletters and with bookmarks.

The Alcott library is open from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday and 5–7 p.m. Thursday. The library will be open through the firsct full week of August.

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