Whether rain or shine, school or vacation, good health or global pandemic, promoting literacy remains a much-championed cause with local libraries.

“Our goal is to always keep people reading!” said Children’s Librarian Michelle Zimmermann of the North Mankato Taylor Library. “COVID hasn’t changed this at all.” While health restrictions might have caused a few changes, librarians are up to the challenge of providing entertaining Summer Reading programs for all ages.

At the Blue Earth County Library, Summer Reading has taken almost an entirely digital angle. Kids ages 0-17 receive reading-themed online activities once they sign up, and earn Barnes and Noble gift cards for completing reading challenges. Younger age groups can also sign up for “Creat10” activity packs, a new program made possible by the Glen A. Taylor Foundation.

“Beginning on June 15, ‘Creat10’ kits can be picked up curbside with books or call to have them mailed,” said Library Director Kelly McBride. “There will be a different theme and different activities each week so that kids can stay sharp all summer!” Signup for the general reading programs ends on July 15th, so hurry to join!

Our goal is to always keep people reading! North Mankato Taylor Library Children’s Librarian Michelle Zimmermann

Adults can get in on the fun as well by participating in Adult Book Bingo or the 2020 Reading Challenge. The Blue Earth County Library is also sponsoring their first-ever “Storytime for Grown-ups” A Zoom event that allows participants to share their memories and experiences that relate to each meeting’s theme.

Most of the Blue Earth Library’s events for all ages will be held virtually. Based on still-standing limitations for public gatherings, McBride explained that library staff felt that this would be the safest option.

Submitted Photo - North Mankato Taylor Library's summer reading poster
Submitted Photo – North Mankato Taylor Library’s summer reading poster

“Given that we consistently have nearly 3,000 children participate in our summer reading programs, including 250 in attendance at each of our live program events, COVID necessitated an entirely-online program for 2020 that we had to ‘call’ in April,” McBride said.

Across the river, the North Mankato Taylor Library has also tweaked their approach to Summer Reading. In order to capitalize on good social distancing practices, the Taylor librarians have instituted a program they call Royal Readers. While readers of all ages are browsing quietly and separately in the library stacks, they have the opportunity to participate in a kind of scavenger hunt where they are rewarded for finding a good summer read.

Given that we consistently have nearly 3,000 children participate in our summer reading programs…. COVID necessitated an entirely-online program for 2020. Blue Earth County Library Director Kelly McBride

“We have marked several items throughout the library as Royal Readers, and when a patron checks one out, they will receive a $5 gift card,” said Zimmerman. “Only librarians know which items are marked, and don’t ask us, because we probably have forgotten already!”

Besides Royal Readers, the Taylor Library is also offering a large range of social-distancing-approved events. On Thursdays at 3:30 pm, Drive-In Storytime features librarians acting out stories while families watch from the safety of their vehicles. Throughout the summer, library patrons can take part in a city-wide fairy-tale themed scavenger hunt, pick up take-home crafting kits, and enjoy a number of virtual clubs, games, and trivia.

The Blue Earth County and Taylor Libraries both encourage their communities to sign up and enjoy the many reading-related adventures they have in store all summer long. Want to join but not sure what to read? Zimmerman and McBride can start you off with some great suggestions. Check them out below!

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  • Katie Roiger

    is a freelance writer who works out of the Greater Mankato Area. She enjoys exploring every town she visits and knowing where to find the best Mexican restaurant in any 40-mile radius.