With new spaces for youngsters, library kicks off summer reading event

PUNXSUTAWNEY — With a newly-renovated children’s section, the Punxsutawney Memorial Library is ready to begin its summer reading program this week.

Through the efforts of Director Coral Ellshoff, new furniture has replaced disintegrating items that had been used in the library since the early 1970s.

“The older furniture was original to the library when it was built in 1974,” she said. “It had served us really well, but it had started to show its age because this is a really well-used area of the library.”

According to Ellshoff, new furniture was a critical need; the original arrangement in the children’s library left little space for programs and activities.

“If it was raining or snowing outside, we couldn’t do anything in the courtyard, and we would have nowhere to go, with the prior arrangement,” she said. “So we wanted something with a lot of flexibility and a lot of ease of use. We also wanted to make it very clear where chapter books were, where picture books were, where non-fiction books were because those are the main areas of the children’s library.”

Ellshoff worked with the library’s furniture supplier to develop a new and more accommodating environment.

Bookshelves now line up against the outside of the children’s library, and free-standing, mobile bookshelves are located in the middle.

“We can always push the mobile bookshelves out of the way and do activities like arts and crafts,” Ellshoff said. “Arts and crafts in the library is something that helps kids relate reading to their real lives. And if they’re being read to, and they have the chance to pick out books, that really integrates in their minds and makes reading something that is a good part of their lives, so it helps to build literacy.”

This year’s summer reading theme, “One World, Many Stories,” is all about travel and culture, and allowing children to explore seven different regions of the world.

Each week, the students will learn about a different region; this week’s topic is North America, and next week’s topic is Central and South America.

Saturday, the summer program began with international cuisine and games to introduce the children to the program.

“We wanted the children to get comfortable with seeing each other and to get comfortable with the library,” Ellshoff said. “It was a fun, mellow time to enjoy the library.”

According to Ellshoff, it’s going to be even easier for children to enjoy the library with the newly-renovated section.

“This is great,” she said. “Summer reading is starting up, the kids have access to books, and it’s now an even better space for kids to hang out in. Which is more and more a very important role that libraries are playing in kids’ lives. It’s a good place for kids to come, and not have to buy anything, and not have to be outside if they don’t need to be — it’s a good spot.”

Rotarian Tom Chelgren is also excited about the newly-renovated section. Rotary, along with Career Women’s Club, Friends of the Library and the Lions Club all donated money for the renovation project.

“Having a nice, safe environment to learn gives kids an advantage as they go through their school years,” Chelgren said.

Registration for the Summer Reading Program is free, and children can register at any time throughout the course of the program; however, the children must read at least 10 books, which is the sole requirement.

Ellshoff said students should record each title in a log kept at the library. There will be incentives each week, and everyone who has fulfilled the requirement is invited to the closing party Aug. 6, which will be themed around Africa.

Kate Doverspike, a reading teacher in the school district, signed her daughters up for the program.

“Reading is the foundation for everything in life,” she said. “If you can’t read, you can’t succeed.”