Most people think of farmers markets as great places to find homegrown produce, artisanal foods and handcrafted products.
At the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market, library books are also on the bill of fare.
Each Wednesday during market hours, elementary through high school students can stop by the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Library Services lending library and pick out books for their summer reading.
“The goal of the program is to get books in kids’ hands for the summer and keep them reading,” said Emily Gilchrist, Lee’s Summit R-7 library media specialist. “The more kids read in the summer, the more prepared they are for school in the fall.”
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Gilchrist is one of several library media specialists who staff the lending library each week. They offer reading recommendations and answer questions from the young borrowers, their parents and grandparents.
“A lot of grandparents bring their grandchildren to pick out books each week,” said Wendy Hilbert, district library media specialist. “It’s a fun experience to come to the market and pick out books.”
Each week dozens of borrowers stop by the market library.
As an extension of these community-wide reading services, the district also plans to launch a mobile bookmobile next year, so students who don’t have transportation in the summer will have access to books. The mobile library will include regularly scheduled stops throughout the community.
“The market library and bookmobile are part of the district’s vision to keep kids reading all summer,” Hilbert said.
Weekly visitors to the market lending library include special needs students who attend the district’s summer programs.
Marsha Early, Lee’s Summit North para-educator, brings her students every Wednesday to return books from the previous week and make new selections. The market library experience offers a number of educational opportunities for the students, Early said.
“We get to walk from the high school and learn traffic rules on the way,” she said. “The students learn how to exchange money, select books and be more courteous. This is a great program for kids in a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Enthusiastic patrons Paxton Welch, 7, his mother, Ashley, and brother Bennett, 5, have been lending library regulars for the past two years.
“I really like learning about new authors from the librarians here. My favorite author is Mike Lupica and his “Comeback Kids” series,” Paxton said. “My brother doesn’t read as much. He likes having books read, so I also read to him all of the time.”
Reading and the appreciation of reading is an important focus in the Welch home.
“This program is so cool,” Ashley said. “The librarians help kids find books they want to read, and they want to come back every week and get more.
“Books are everywhere you go in Lee’s Summit. I love that our community fosters reading like this.”
Library staff and books will be available at the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market from 7 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays through July 25. The market is at the corner of Second and Douglas streets downtown.