When supplemental teachers Karla Dahlheimer, Dorris Northup and Patty Sorenson launched the Hamilton Elementary Traveling Library in June, they hoped about 20 students would come to the three locations in Coon Rapids they planned.
To their surprise and delight, more than 60 students attended the traveling library’s first day in June; turnout at the July and August events was about the same.
The women decided to do the traveling library after discussing how they could build community with students and give them fun experiences during the summer.
A decision was made to take the traveling library into the community and events were held at Winchester and Pondale apartments and Creekside Trailer Park once in June, July and August at each location.
Taking the traveling library to students not only helped with transportation but also enticed students who might not want to come back to school during the summer months.
“This made it more personal,” Northup said about visiting the locations where the students live.
“We also didn’t wear our teacher hats which helped us to engage with students in a way we don’t get a chance to during the school day.”
In addition to having books available for check out, the teachers played games with students and read with them.
Additional teachers from Hamilton and Principal Diane Merritt also donated their time.
Although Hamilton sponsored the traveling library, all children were welcome to attend.
The traveling library was a success for many reasons.
For the students, the traveling library was an opportunity for them to see that reading can be done outside of school and can be fun. Playing games also provided students an opportunity to work on math and soft skills.
Northup said some children do not play as many board games as children in the past.
“A lot of times students don’t have the basic counting skills taught by playing board games,” Northup said.
“At one location Candyland was a popular game because it’s not something they get to do. Everything is so high tech these days, sometimes children like to do something that is low tech.”
Children learned soft (personal) skills from another popular game.
“The most popular game this summer was Swamp Checkers,” Dahlheimer said.
“It uses frogs instead of checkers. When a player jumps the other player’s frog, they get to squirt them with water from the frog.
“We only had one game so students had to wait their turn; this was a good lesson in patience.
“Sometimes they were tied up with another game when their turn came and they would let someone else play; this was a good lesson in cooperation.”
For the teachers, it was an opportunity to get to know students on a personal level.
“During the school day we are often pressed for time,” Dahlheimer said.
“We like to know about our kids pets, or if they have brothers and sisters. This was also a great way to keep in touch during the summer.
“And we had good parent involvement in a couple of locations. Parents were interested in coming to play games with their children.
“This gave us contact with parents outside of a school setting.”
Teachers have kept track of what’s worked and what hasn’t this year, and plans are in the works to do the traveling library again next summer.
“The kids have really liked it so we would like to do more,” Dahlheimer said.
“We would like to increase it to a couple of times a month. This was a great opportunity to get together with students, have some fun and get to know them on a deeper level.”