Summer at the Library: Enter the Lab

  • Summer begins at Timberland Regional libraries when school is out
  • Libraries’ summer program themes for 2014 present a science focus

Summertime means children and teens hunting for things to do and parents and caregivers turning to the Timberland Regional Library (TRL) annual Summer Reading Program, where their kids always have something to do, read, discover, talk about, and make. A summer at the library offers programs and library materials for all youth from babyhood through age 18.

Library summer programs begin when schools let out. Then library staff begin giving out free “Summer at the Library” fun bags that include summer event calendars, puzzles and word games for various age levels, new book lists, and entry forms for prize drawings. All programs, presentations and activities are free of charge. All young people throughout the five-county library system can join in the events at any of the 27 TRL branch libraries.

Themes encourage children and teens to seek and discover
New themes each summer provide new entryways to discovery. Science underlies virtually every aspect of our lives and this year’s themes, “Fizz, Boom, Read!” for children and “Spark a Reaction” for teens, complement the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs adopted by many schools. Boiling up STEM into STEAM, numerous arts and crafts activities will let kids explore making things and discover how science and the arts are related.

“Summer is a time when kids and teens can explore the things they’re interested in,” said Ellen Duffy, TRL’s Youth Services Coordinator, “Even more than helping kids gain and maintain reading skills—and the summer program certainly does that—summer at the library is about keeping the excitement about reading and learning and life alive and active,” she said, “It’s about giving kids and teens opportunities to discover new worlds, to play, to make friends, to explore new characters and places in books.”

Programs and Special Events
Gadgets and gears, beakers and blocks, rocket launching supplies, robot parts, duct tape, soap-making ingredients—these are only a few of the materials participants will use in make-it-yourself “LabARTory” programs that will invite experimentation in both science and art.

Libraries will host performers, lead science experiments and workshops, and conduct scavenger hunts, book discussions and stuffed animal sleepovers as well as games and contests such as science fiction trivia.

Each Timberland library will feature at least two special performers. Just a sample of over a dozen that will be at various libraries: Mad Science of Portland (chemistry experiments), Alex Zerbe’s “Gravity Catastrophe” (physics and humor), Jeff Evans (science and magic), Eric Ode (sea creatures kids’ concert), Harmonica Pocket (creative dramatics and music), Mike Gervais (music and natural science), Robert Kikuchi-Ungojo (multicultural tales and creative dramatics), and Last Leaf Children's Theater (interactive mystery play).

Returning to the lineup are two online contests for youth ages 18 and under: designing a library in the Minecraft program and filming a book trailer. Minecraft is a computer game that allows players to build objects and structures from textured cubes in an online 3D world. For the Book Trailer contest, think movie trailer, but for a book. More information and rules for the contests will be at and the week of June 9.

Authors of teen novels will be at libraries to visit with teens and talk about writing. Science fiction and adventure writer, Kevin Emerson of Seattle, and mystery and thriller author, April Henry of Portland, will visit eight libraries, four libraries each. Teens can also look forward to Steampunk and Doctor Who parties, science experiments, the second LibrAnimeCon anime and manga convention, DIY crafts, and CSI-style forensics activities.

For every age, from babies to teens
“Summer at the library is for youth of all ages, so bring the babies! It’s never too soon to begin reading, singing, talking and playing with infants,” said Ms. Duffy, “Timberland libraries have books and music to borrow, story times and activities to join in together, and welcoming, knowledgeable staff to help guide parents to the best books and programs for their little ones.”

Children’s and teens’ summer experiences at the library provide literacy connections such as reading, thinking, predicting, storytelling and writing. The key to the design of the summer program is that at the same time students are keeping their minds sharp between the spring and fall school terms, they’re engaged and having fun. They’ll join in interactive performances; engage in creative arts and activities, hands-on exploring, and experimenting; visit with authors; and read—just for the pleasure of it.

To parents and caregivers
“The library partners with parents towards the goal of having children ready—but also excited—to learn when they start or return to school,” said Ms. Duffy, “The library is a summer destination, alive with performers, hands on programs, story times, family events, books, games, computers and welcoming staff. It’s also a place to connect with friends, old and new, and to grow. See you at the library!”

For complete summer program details, contact your local Timberland library or visit beginning the week of June 9.