Summer Reading Adventures Connect Community and Library

Johnson County Library invites people of all ages to join the adventure of Summer Reading 2024!

The Library will serve as a community hub, highlighting local groups that provide all sorts of enrichment, excitement and fun.

Events kick off Saturday, June 1 at 10 a.m. with award-winning musician and author Mr. Stinky Feet providing a rousing dance party at Central Resource Library. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Central will host a Community Connections Fair, introducing patrons to organizations that focus on activities ranging from kayaking and ukulele jam sessions to juggling and choral music instruction, plus art and science galore.

Johnson County Naturalists and the Audubon Society will do bird watching in the park behind Central Library. A portable planetarium in the Carmack Room will demonstrate the wonders of the solar system. A bus on site will introduce people to Johnson County’s transit system.

Summer Reading is a chance to expose everyone to the joys of books. The Community Connections Fair adds an extra dimension, says Melanie Fuemmeler, program operations manager at the Library.

“We also want to highlight all the other ways that Summer Reading brings people together to learn beyond books — through play, through exploration, through discovery, through community collaboration,” Fuemmeler said. “We really see Summer Reading as an opportunity to think beyond what people may perceive as the typical boundaries of a Library.”

This year’s theme is “Adventure Begins at Your Library,” which reveals how the Library is the portal to a world of exuberant experiences. The Summer Reading theme is a nationwide campaign provided by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, featuring dazzling graphics by illustrators Juana Martinez-Neal and Rob Donnelly.

Program Services Specialist Christin Devonshire is excited about the possibilities with this year’s theme and community connections.

“It’s just such a delightful time,” she said. “For me, it’s really cool to see that people of all different ages come to the Library for that moment of discovery.”

The Library is eager to lean into the adventure theme and introduce patrons to the amazing activities the County can provide. At last year’s inaugural Community Connections Fair, participants came away with plans to pursue new hobbies or to learn a musical instrument.

“Those are the moments that it feels like the Library really is this magical thing,” Devonshire said.

The Library will host free book distributions in all branches beginning June 3. It has ordered 25,000 adventure books from vendor Children’s Plus, including picture books, Easy Reader, J Fiction, Non-Fiction and Teen selections.

During April and May, thousands of free books were distributed through Johnson County’s elementary schools and through community partners like Merriam Parks and Recreation, the Jewish Community Center, Catholic Charities and Shawnee Mission Parents as Teachers. This Library outreach began during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been hugely successful, particularly for reluctant readers.

“We get continual positive feedback from teachers regarding the outreach book distribution,” Fuemmeler said. “This was a way for us to get a book in the hands of kids before they got out of school.” It shows students how much fun books can be and builds their enthusiasm for a lifelong reading habit.

This summer, the Library will have 13 key event offerings throughout June and July, including a STEM music program, art therapy, Read to a Dog, and Operation Wildlife’s raptor program.

The ever-popular bookmark contest is back, with submissions accepted through the end of July. 

Fuemmeler said the 12-member Summer Reading team includes reference librarians and branch staff, plus creative services and communications professionals. They work hard all year to make summer a unique and wonderful time. 

“It’s all about providing positive patron experiences and interactions,” she said. “It’s what makes each year memorable in its own way.”