The summer I turned 12 years old, my dad took me to Washington, D.C. for a weeklong trip to immerse me in culture and history of the nation's capital — something he did with each of his three kids once we were deemed old enough to appreciate the gesture.
Decades later, he would still recount the story of making me put down the book I was reading in the back seat of the rental car so we could visit the Lincoln Memorial. He wasn't angry, but he was baffled I'd chosen the written word over the real world.
Looking back, I think he had it wrong. From the time I started comprehending the written word at the age of 5 until the current day, I've seen reading as a way to understand the world, as well as traverse it.
Children’s librarian and Bellingham Public Library Deputy Director Bethany Hoglund agrees with my summation.
“As a child, I loved getting swept up in the adventure, the mystery ... just being able to experience something new to me through the eyes and experiences of a character,” she said. “I still love that about story and how books and stories can open up my worlds to times, places and experiences outside of my lived experiences.”
These days, Hoglund helps area youth discover ways to challenge themselves when it comes to discovering new literary genres or areas of interest — just like she did.
Aubri Blum explores fiction books at the Bellingham Public Library during a recent visit. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
As part of an annual Summer Reading collaboration between the Bellingham Public Library and the Whatcom County Library System taking place until Aug. 31, Hoglund and numerous other library employees will provide summer reading engagement via cards — one for readers of all ages, and one for children who are not yet reading — to help track summer reading or progress in early reading practices.
The back of the reader card has suggestions on how to participate in Summer Reading 2022, and readers can also find inspiration on the library systems’ websites and social media accounts.
In addition to Library Parties taking place from 5–7 p.m Wednesday, June 22 at Squalicum Park and 2–4 p.m. on July 13 at Cordata Park, the library system will host kickoff parties at each of its 10 branches and bookmobile stops from June 27 through July 1. At all events, staff will distribute free books to young people, offer fun family crafts and share information about in-person summer programs.
Hoglund said the Bellingham events at local parks started last summer as a first foray back into in-person programming since the beginning of the pandemic.
In addition to being a way to bring programs and services into the community, they also wanted to focus on reaching families on the north side of town. This year, each party will feature sidewalk chalk, bubbles, StoryWalk paths, checkout of library books and materials, free books, summer reading information for kids and teens, and book recommendations.
For younger readers, Hoglund suggests checking out the picture book “Bathe the Cat” by Alice B. McGinty. A beginning chapter book series “Home is Where the Heart Is,” by Cam Higgins, is a “great first chapter book, or read aloud.” For upper elementary and middle school students, she suggests “Freddie and the Family Curse” or the graphic novel “The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza,” by Mac Barnett.
“There are so
many amazing children’s books,”
Hoglund said. “It is hard to choose just a few.”
For both youth and adults, Summer Reading isn't just about opening the pages of a book. Listening to books, browsing magazine articles or watching movies and documentaries — all of which can be accessed at Whatcom County libraries for free — all count toward reaching reading goals.
“Summer reading is all about celebrating story and information through reading and listening,” Hoglund said. “We are encouraging summer readers to set their own goal this summer, and then library staff will cheer them on and help provide reading and listening recommendations and suggestions along the way.”
Summer Reading cards are available in English, Punjabi, Russian and Spanish languages. For more information about Summer Reading activities, visit local libraries in person or the library systems’ websites at bellinghampubliclibrary.org/summer-reading or wcls.org/summer-reading.