#LoveMyLibraryCard Guest Post: Classy Cat Books

Posted September 11, 2014 by Felicia S in LoveMyLibraryCard / 17 Comments


Classy Cat Books

The town I grew up in absolutely loved its parades (still does, but as I don’t live there anymore, we’re using past tense for the purposes of this post). We had a Fantasy of Lights parade every year the Friday after Thanksgiving to kick off the December holiday season. We had a Memorial Day parade every in the spring. And we had a Melon Festival complete with a parade every early-August (yes, we people from Howell enjoy our cantaloupe enough to have a festival in their honor (and make ice cream out of it). Don’t judge; I just recently went to camp in an area that has an onion festival every year). As a high school student in the marching band, I wasΒ privilegedΒ enough to have to march in at least two of them every year. As you might imagine, it loses its splendor after a while.

But as a younger member of the town (we’re talking early Elementary school now), getting a chance to walk in the parade was exciting and rare. Unless you were associated with one of the few young-people organizations that walked, you had no options but to sit on the side of the road and watch. Getting to join in on the parade was a rare treat that served as some pretty decent motivation. And our local library knew it.

Growing up, I always participated in our library’s Summer Reading Program. You worked with a librarian to set reading goals for the summer—there were recommended goals from the library for each age group, and you could adjust them according to your actual reading level, types of books you were reading, etc. For example: I was at a higher reading level than most of my peers, so I had goals to read more than most of my age group, but I was also reading more challenging books (long chapter books like I read now instead of the 100ish page paperback novellas), so I ended up with a lower book count anyway.

The Program was about giving kids incentives to read even when school wasn’t dictating it (hence, the Summer Reading Program). They aimed to make reading fun from a very young age by hosting arts and crafts activities paired with reading sessions for the really young kids (I don’t remember ever doing that myself, but I remember taking my brother to them while Mom wandered around the adult book area upstairs). For the older kids (we’re talking 4th and 5th grade here), there were prizes that could be won—some were guaranteed and some were raffle-based with entries determined by your goal progress throughout the summer. My last year with the program I won some oddly flavoured Jones sodas that I’m fairly certain are still sitting in my parents’ garage a decade or so later.

But the biggest prize of them all was the parade. I honestly can’t for the life of me remember how you earned a spot with the Library in the Melon Fest Parade, but you could. And if you were extra special, you got to secure a spot under the library’s bookworm. That’s right ladies and gents: we had a Chinese-dragon style gigantic caterpillar representing the library in the parade (I tried to find a picture online, but failed miserably; instead you just get to see my lovely library building). Every kid who reached the right goal-post got to walk in the group, but only a select few were able to actually be part of the bookworm.

My home town is made up primarily of adults who don’t care to read. We have a fairly low percentage of our population with any kind of college-education—which is fine, but there’s some correlation between education and interest in reading. I think our library did a great job of breaking through that barrier and getting young people interested in reading—I’m confident that most of the avid readers in our high school only became avid readers because of the library’s efforts early on in our reading careers. Well, that and Harry Potter.

I don’t think that library still has the parade, but the Summer Reading Program is still going strong. They’ve made it a little more targeted toward encouraging parents to sign up their kids based on the online promo I’ve managed to find for it. They’ve built up a recommendation program for setting goals based on research regarding how many books should be read over the summer to preventΒ “summer slide” (return to school in the fall without having lost any ground). And they’ve expanded the Program to include adults too. I personally don’t know how I feel about the changes, but since I’m not there to experience them first-hand, I can’t really comment.

Libraries hold a certain kind of power in a community, particularly in smaller towns with no book stores (something that’s also changed in relatively recent years). They not only have the ability to influence the reading culture in the area, but in my opinion also have a responsibility to put programs in place to encourage the development of our young readers. My library did that exceptionally well—what did/does yours do?

Felicia Here: I grew up in a small town (less than 1200 people) with no bookstore and can attest that the library was such a big part of the community. Most of the books were donated by people in the town and it was more of a swap than the library system in bigger towns. I loved this post because it made the small town girl in me smile!

Felicia S
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17 responses to “#LoveMyLibraryCard Guest Post: Classy Cat Books

  1. The summer reading program is so fun! My kids participate every year. Their elementary school throws a luau in the fall for all students who did the public library’s reading challenge. πŸ™‚

  2. I’m a small town girl too (village currently has a population of less than 2000 people!) and I grinned as soon as you mentioned the parades. I wonder if that’s a small town thing? We had so many parades and it would have been so cool to be able to be IN the parade for reading – I so would have made it! We also didn’t have a bookstore and our library was where you went for books. Though if you wanted to buy books, the school library had bookfairs periodically and even then I had book buying problem :/ Great post!

  3. Another small town girl here. πŸ™‚ we had a library but no book store in town. The library was a sort of haven but their hours weren’t that great. The difference for me from your stories are that my town thinks of the library as a nuisance to be maintained. We have a lot of educated people in that community but unfortunately they don’t see the library through the eyes of a patron. They see it through the eyes of property owners who begrudge the money going to the library. They continually vote down even the smallest tax increases for the library. They are only currently open two or three days for a few hours. I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be able to hold out. πŸ™ There is certainly very little budget for programs.

    HOWEVER I live ten miles away now and my new library does fantastic with what they’ve got. Bigger city, bigger budget. No difference in the attitude. Our library used to be a Carnegie library but burnt in the 1950s. Our current library was built as a temporary replacement that became permanent. Now we’re trying to build a new modern library and you wouldn’t BELIEVE the animosity from the majority of citizens and officials. Most of the money is coming from grants to boot but propaganda has everyone believing it’s coming straight out of John Q Public’s pocket directly. Bah!

    Got sidetracked there. Sorry about that…..the good news is that my library rocks and they’re keeping a great face and I have high hopes for where they are heading!!

    • Our library was a Carnegie too — And it’s someone of an architectural marvel in our town. The city has this moderate obsession about keeping the facade of downtown looking historic (I mean, they welcome people to “Historic Downtown Howell” and everything), so it’s been pretty well maintained. They don’t have the best book selection, but they have a trading network with nearby libraries, so it sufficed, at least enough to get me through middle school and high school. I’m honestly not sure what the public attitude is toward maintaining it, other than the outside appearance, but even when I go back to visit now there are ALWAYS people there, so it seems to do pretty well.

      I hope this new library does well for you and keeps up the good trend πŸ™‚


    • Thanks! My mom saw this post go up and informed me that the reason there isn’t a prize to walk in the parade anymore is because Howell doesn’t HAVE a Melon Festival Parade anymore. I was shocked. This is news to me, as I haven’t been around at the end of summer in years. Very disappointing … Also, apparently, I was told I was too short to walk under the bookworm and was devastated. I don’t remember this, but I suppose it speaks volumes that I remember the reward even though I didn’t get it πŸ˜›


  4. My three and five year old completed the summer reading program at our library this year and it was such a big deal to put that sticker on the chart every night after we read. When the finished they got a big envelope with coupons and a free book. Needless to say, the library was instrumental in helping me keep my sanity with them this summer.

    • It certainly provided some adequate encouragement to stay engaged in their program πŸ™‚ As unique rewards go, that’s one of the most creative I’ve seen for any achievement!


  5. My town has no library or bookstore as it is a small town as well. We have to go to the next town over and even it’s a small library, but it does have a interlibrary loan system with another small library so that helps. Ours is a county library and so a lot of the small towns around use the one library..I wish I lived in a town with a bigger library some times but ours tries to stay current.

    • I feel pretty fortunate that our library was pretty good. It wasn’t particularly large, but it did what it could to accommodate everyone. It’s actually one of the few things my town really had locally—I mean, we had to drive almost a half hour to the next town over just to go to the movies. It’s a small wonder we actually had such a good library program.


  6. Finley Jayne

    My kids do our library’s summer reading program every year, but the grand prize is usually an entry in a drawing for a new bike. Love the parade idea!