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Online Summer Reading Program kicks off June 1

By Staff | May 28, 2020

The Lee County Library System has expanded its services and is gearing up for its online Summer Reading Program next week.

Youth Services Programming Coordinator Amy Jane McWilliam said things are going really well with curbside pickup, which has been extended to all the branches in the Lee County Library System.

“The hours vary depending on which branch. As we start phasing in services that will change,” she said.

As for the Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace and Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Blvd., N in Cape Coral, and East County Regional Library, 881 Gunnery Rd., N. in Lehigh Acres the curbside hold pickup is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

McWilliam said the curbside pickup gives patrons an opportunity to place a hold online, or over the phone with the telephone reference department. The telephone reference department is staffed Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Individuals can call (239) 479-4636.

Once the materials are ready, the patron will be notified by the library. When the patron arrives at the branch they are asked to call the number the library staff gives them while providing their library card number.

A staff member will then wheel out a library cart with their material, leave it at the curb and walk away.

“Then the person can get out of their car and get their items,” McWilliam said of the curb, contactless pickup. “I know as a parent, our kids are getting a lot of screen time. When we started curbside pickup the parents rejoiced.”

She explained that the curbside pickup is one step of starting the phase in process of services.

On Tuesday, May 26, Cape Coral Lee County Regional Library, East County Regional Library, Fort Myers Regional Library, Northwest Regional Library and South County Regional Library opened their doors, with building capacities limited to 25 percent. The in branch hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Those libraries are now offering computer usage of one hour per person, per day. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for computers are available. When patrons are in the library, they are expected to social distance — stay six feet a part from each other. There is also a recommended face covering, but it is not required.

Study rooms, meeting spaces and general seating is not available at this time.

The library also is continuing storytime every Wednesday at 10 a.m., online, through the Lee County Library System YouTube channel. McWilliam said the storytime allows children to see a familiar face, as the children librarians are taking turns doing a recorded storytime featured on YouTube.

“All of our staff went through training this past year for storytime and learned so much about early literacy. We were excited to kick start our Super Charged Storytime campaign when all of this happened,” McWilliam said of closures due to COVID-19.

She said although a child being read to in person is going to be more of an impact than watching a recording, the online storytime is also geared towards caretakers.

“We are modeling the types of things that parents can do to help the child develop the skills they need to be reading for kindergarten,” McWilliam said.

With school coming to an end, the Lee County Library System is kicking off their “Imagine Your Story” Summer Reading Program for all ages. The reading program, which will be solely online, will be held from June 1, through Aug. 1.

The library system is using the program, Readsquared, which all ages can use, including adults.

“Last year we had an online component for folks to log their reading, a free platform that we were using. Some people participated, but it didn’t get the traction,” McWilliam said, adding that they used the free program to engage interest from the community regarding the online program.

With Readsquared, they felt it was the best way for them to make the summer reading program as normal as possible, while intertwining the things that they know families really enjoy.

McWilliam said the system will allow participants to log in their reading, as well as complete challenges and missions to earn a chance to win prizes. There are activities offline and screen free, and the reading can also be done offline and screen free.

“The activities are the things that we would do inside our branches,” McWilliam said.

The exciting grand prizes include a Little Tikes playhouse for babies through age 5, Nintendo Switch for elementary school aged children, VR headset for teens and a Kindle Fire HD for adults. There are also prizes for branch winners ranging from literacy activity baskets, science kits for kids and a mini robot for teens, as well as Nelson DeMille signed books for adults.

McWilliam said although the Summer Reading Program is online, the library system also created a summer reading packet to hand out to the kids.

“An online platform might not be acceptable for everyone,” she said.

She said with their great partnerships with the community and the Lee County School District, the Summer Reading Program can reach more students.

They will distributed booklets on Tuesday at every Grab and Go meal site of the Lee County School District.

“We worked with the Nutrition Services to get this done,” McWilliam said, adding that it means that the kids that are the most vulnerable population, or those who want to be completely free of screen time, will still have material to participate in the Summer Reading Program.

Although the activity booklet targets kids from 6 to 11 years old, anyone can do the activities.

“The reading challenge can be adaptive to any age,” McWilliam said.

In addition, she said they are going to work with the summer camps that are open to get the activity books distributed to all camp locations.

For more information about the library system, visit www.leelibrary.net, or its Facebook and Instagram pages, as good information related to library services is shared on social media. Updates regarding the Summer Reading Program will also be updated at www.leelibrary.net/summer.

As far as when the library will provide more services, it all depends on the recommendations from the Board of County Commissioners. McWilliam said she personally listens to the Board of County Commissioners meetings every Tuesday.

“We rely on the Board of County Commissioners to let us know when we are phasing in more services based on state and CDC guidelines,” she said.