LSJ News

At Farmers Market, kids can check out fruits, veggies — and books

Now children can get nourishment for their minds as well as their bodies at the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market.

Books can be checked out and returned on Wednesdays at the market in a program the Lee’s Summit School District started.

Library staff and books will be available at the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market from 7 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays through July 26. Students are invited to check out materials and talk to librarians about selections. Books will be available for a wide variety of ages. In addition, students are invited to access free ebooks and audiobooks online.

It is, in part, an effort to make summer reading easier for children who live in central Lee’s Summit who may not be able to easily reach the Mid-Continent Public Library branches. Coldwater, a social service agency, is also working to bring more activities to children in targeted neighborhoods.

Laura Maxwell, director of Partners in Education and Libraries for the district, said several school libraries used to stay open each summer so students could check out books at their local school. That opportunity for summer reading was cut during cost containment about eight years ago.

“Once we regained some of our financial stability, we tried for a couple of summers to reinvigorate the concept, but we’d lost steam and traffic was light. Folks had gotten out of the habit of remembering us,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said that the district’s inventory of books is most powerful in the hands of students in the summer because it helps prevent the loss of reading skill over the summer vacation for students. She said there’s been a lot of research about the reality of the “summer slide” related to literacy.

Maxwell said the district watched the success the Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church and Coldwater has had with summer lunch programs, and began considering having an old-fashioned bookmobile of sorts travel to the same neighborhoods. The district didn’t have time to take that concept to fruition this year, she said, so the district planned a “soft rollout” of a bookmobile at the Farmers Market.

Organizers plan to assess the situation at the end of that seven weeks.

Coldwater also is providing services for children who need assistance through its BackSnack program.

Monica Humbard, director of Coldwater, said getting books into the hands of kids is always a good idea.

She said Coldwater is trying to bring more educational programming to its Summer Lunch neighborhoods, offering yearly zoo visits and taking out a bin of books for three ages groups, from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade each day.

She said several science teachers from Bernard C. Campbell Middle School and Lee’s Summit North High School are putting together a Science Day for each of its three neighborhoods. They also have the Reading Rocket coming five times to the neighborhoods to do a puppet show and give each child a book every time.

“These kids will probably not get the chance to go to expensive sports, activity or church camps this summer and more than likely will not visit the Zoo or Science City, so we are hoping to continue to bring them more and more fun activities each summer, Humbard said.

“I believe that giving them fun and positive learning activities to engage in each day can only make for a more positive, healthy community environment while they are home over the summer.”