Summer Reading 2022 Highlights: Vibrant Events, Online and In Person

Johnson County Library is gearing up for a 2022 Summer Reading season to captivate children and families. It will offer vibrant events online and in person, using pandemic-era innovations but also providing some return to normalcy as COVID wanes.

“We’ve been through two years where we have had to pivot, and through that we have grown,” said Elementary Coordinating Librarian Melanie Fuemmeler. “We have grown close as a leadership team and have proven to ourselves and hopefully to the community that we’re ready to engage with them in any way they are comfortable. We feel really great about what we have to offer this summer.”

More than 10,000 books have already been distributed this spring to readers of all ages and ability levels by Johnson County schools and community partners. This continues a vital outreach that began during the pandemic, benefiting families that might not access the Libraries. 

Library staffers are also eager to offer the book distribution in all branches June 1 through June 30. Thousands of free books will be given out, helping families build their home libraries and sustain a love of reading. “We curate titles around inclusivity and diversity,” Fuemmeler said. “We want every child to be able to see themselves in a book.”

Teen volunteers will once again be engaged in person, particularly with the book distribution. “It’s always a time of the year where all Library staff, not just youth services, say there’s joy and great positive interaction,” commented Monticello Youth Librarian Jennifer Reeves. “That’s what makes summer reading so special, to have these memorable and unique experiences with families that are positive and long lasting.”

This summer’s theme is “Oceans of Possibilities,” which conjures up all sorts of opportunities to explore fantastic sea creatures, nature and science.

“Summer Reading is synonymous with pools and swimming and splashing,” Fuemmeler said. “We’re having a great deal of fun with this particular theme.”  

More information about summer reading programming is available on the Library's website. 

The official kickoff is June 4, featuring an online presentation by Ben Clanton, best-selling author/illustrator of the Narwhal and Jelly children’s graphic novel series.

“Ben is a storyteller and illustrator extraordinaire.” Fuemmeler said. “He is going to deliver something for all ages and all interests.”

The morning begins with an online, interactive Storytime with ocean-themed picture books, movement, rhymes and fun.

Other virtual programming includes a Juneteenth Special Feature Storytime on June 15, celebrating African American heritage with the mother/son duo, Newberry & Caldecott Honor author Carole Boston Weatherford and poet and illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford. The Library will also offer a virtual Kansas City Zoo penguin encounter on June 21.

The youth sticker and poetry contests should be popular draws, with all entries submitted online and judged by teens, assisted by Library staff. More information will be on the Library’s contests page.

After July 4, the Library is excited to resume in-person programming at select branches for the first time since 2019. Events include Read to a Dog, Mad Science, and a Circus Variety Show.

The Summer Reading season culminates in late July in conjunction with Movies in the Park. The final celebration will be July 29 at Thompson Park, featuring a showing of “Finding Nemo.”

Fuemmeler and Reeves emphasize Summer Reading is for all ages, and 2022 feels like a great time to test the best models for both virtual and in-person programming.

As Fuemmeler explained, “It really is about family engagement, community engagement and Library engagement.”