Summer Reading Program Shares The Gift Of Music

Gift of Music
Cec Solberg shows Tegan Desjarlais the basic fundamentals of how a guitar works. Solberg spent time doing this with many of the youths in the summer reading program and it was the first time many of them had held an instrument. (Photo by Tyler Manning)

The Roosevelt County Library’s summer reading program wrapped up last Thursday, Aug. 2. This year’s theme was “Libraries Rock,” a theme which aimed to teach youths the importance of music, science and of course reading.

The last day of the program started with youth’s making paintings with string. The youths were only allowed the use of string and a large piece of paper to make their artwork. Techniques ranged from calm and methodical use of the string like paintbrush to animated slapping of the string to make something more akin to abstract expressionism.

While painting, the youths listened to Peter and the Wolf, a play where all of the characters are represented by instruments or sections of an orchestra. The tale is the perfect choice to bridge the gap between literature and music.

After the painting activity, local musician and community member Cec Solberg came and spent time with the youths. Solberg knew several of the summer reading program participants from her work with her church’s youth and being a community Girl Scouts leader.

Solberg spoke to the youths about the importance and joy of music and how she got into playing music. She stated that she first began playing guitar at the age of 12, not much older than many of the summer reading program’s youths. She said that she plays music because she loves playing and that she doesn’t think she will ever not play. “It’s something that stays with you for your entire life,” said Solberg.

Solberg played a few songs with the youths, including a lullaby she wrote for her younger sister when she was a teen. However, she also got the youths involved in the songwriting process. She also had the youths sing “You are my Sunshine” along with her.

The youths had many questions about music and instruments which Solberg was happy to answer. In addition, she let many of the students sit and hold her guitar while strumming on the strings. For many of the youths, this was the first time they had ever even touched a guitar.

Solberg made her best effort in explaining how a guitar works and the basic fundamentals of music to the students. Overall she was warmly received by the youths who were very excited to have a musical guest visit for the last day of the summer reading program.

Over the three weeks of the program, the youths participated in dozens of other activities. These activities included: making geodes in egg shells, breaking open geodes, playing red light/green light, playing a game to the story My Baby Bumblebee, working on a music mosaic, the “chicken in a cup” craft, music mad libs/silly sentences, musical Yahtzee, “painting rock stars” painting rocks while listening to music, playing a game called “statues” which is similar to musical chairs, and a rock paper scissors tournament. 

Additionally, Carol Hackley of KVCK visited to talk about being a DJ with the youths. There were also fossils on display courtesy of a local amateur geologist.

For the reading portion of the program, the librarians added reading bingo as part of the program in addition to a new/favorite words list. This was a concerted effort to help the youths expand their vocabulary and encourage them to read higher level books.

The program averaged about 25 kids per session. The peak was 34 being the highest number on day one of the program. Librarians report that they had fewer kids compete in the reading challenge compared to last year, but still consider it a big success.

String Painting With Peter
Jaycee Hilkemann (left) and Jenessa Bowman both paint with string as they listen to Peter and the Wolf a story where each of the main characters are represented by a section of the orchestra. (Photo by Tyler Manning)

According to librarian Haley Crain, “The point is to get kids to read during the summer and to have fun. We are hoping that next year we’ll have more participants in the reading challenge so we are working to come up with better incentives to motivate the kids to read more. We want to combat the ‘summer slide’ that happens when kids don’t do any recreational reading while out of school.”

Overall though, this years summer reading program was a big success. The program continues to act as a safe educational program kids can participate in over the summer. It also still successfully educates and expands youth’s reading capabilities while simultaneously educating them on a different topic each year.