One of the highlights of Westin and Rhett Cooper’s summer is getting to spend time at the Starkville Public Library.
Along with participating in storytime Wednesday morning, they met a live turkey named Travis, who paid a visit to the children at the library.
“We looked at the turkey!” Rhett said.
Westin, 5, and Rhett, 7, come to the library with their nanny, Anna Nobles, every Monday morning. Now, since the library has begun its summer program, Nobles said she plans to bring the boys to the library many times throughout the summer.
The Starkville Public Library is hosting daily activities for children up to 12 years old every Monday through Thursday during June and July at Fire Station Park. The summer program kicked off Tuesday with children learning about robotics and coding.
Children’s Librarian Loraine Walker, affectionately known as “Miss Rainey” by the children, is spearheading the program. After a year of virtual storytime, Walker said she is thrilled library activities are back in person.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to have a children’s reading program up until the last minute because of COVID restrictions…,” Walker said. “I just think it’s so important for the children to have these opportunities to learn new skills and ideas.”
Just like Travis the Turkey, the children will meet new animals every Wednesday, including chicken and pigs, Walker said. Other programming includes science STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) on Mondays, taught by multiple departments at Mississippi State University, robotics and coding on Tuesdays and art STEAM on Thursdays from various businesses across Starkville.
“It’s been a real community effort,” Walker said.
These kinds of activities, Walker said, are not only educational, but show children that they can make a career out of these experiences by creating art, digging in the dirt and playing with robots.
Her inspiration for reading with live animals came from videos she produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Walker could not have weekly readings with the kids, she decided to record “Miss Rainey’s Virtual Storytime,” where she recorded videos in pastures and fields with an array of different animals.
“I would go out and read ‘Llama, Llama’ with a llama, and it was exciting to kids,” Walker said. “It kept them watching. It kept them engaged, and I was doing them every single day of the week.”
Other area library programs
Columbus Public Library is hosting a summer reading program as well, launching Saturday with its summer kickoff. Tuesdays throughout the summer will see different activities such as pottery making, tales of magic and capturing creatures. Mother Goose storytime will be Thursdays with Wee Baby Fridays for ages 0 to 5. The full schedule can be found on the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library Facebook page.
All children’s programs will take place on the library’s front lawn unless otherwise noted.
Caledonia Public Library is also hosting summer activities on Wednesdays throughout June and July, including musical tales, tales with Mother Goose, digging, pottery and water relays.
Bryan Public Library in West Point will present virtual programming through its Facebook page.
While summer may be a break from school, Nobles said she believes it is still important for Westin and Rhett to learn something new every day.
“I think what the library is doing to keep reading going and keeping it at the forefront of kids’ minds and incorporating animals or storytimes or something fun to go with it, the kids are going to remember, ‘Oh, this is very important for me to do,’” Nobles said. “That helps us as the nannies, the parents to remember to keep them in this throughout all the summer.”