By Chance Chamberlain
The Cass County Public Library created virtual learning programs to keep children engaged in learning and reading due to facility shutdowns because of COVID-19. The library has incorporated reading programs, science experiments, cooking tutorials and daily challenges to help children remain active in their learning.
Library Assistant Director Dan Brower said, “Our buildings are closed to the public which has moved many of our programs online.”
Brower said the programs that the library hosts are important to a child’s learning retention.
“We looked at studies that support the idea that if a child remains engaged in reading over the summer months, they will retain the information from the previous school year at a much higher efficiency. On the other hand, if they do not read over the summer, they could lose up to one-third of their retention rate,” he said.
“It is more important now than ever, to keep kids actively engaged in learning.”
Brower said the virtual programs have added benefits.
“The programs are there to take some of the weight off of parents too, many of whom have been home schooling their children since the schools closed. We offer programs that can be accessed on their mobile devices or computers at home so that they are easier to fit into schedules than in-person programs. This really helps get more people involved with the library,” he said.
The library posted monthly calendars for the programs on their website. There are seven “Virtual Storytime” segments and multiple challenges per week, along with “A Moment of Science” hosted by Amy Burkholder every Saturday and a weekly episode of “Kids in the Kitchen” with Rhonda Kasper.
Virtual Storytime segments are produced by each branch of the Cass County Public Library. Brower said this provides some needed familiarity for the children, although it is still missing key interactions.
“Our virtual programs are still missing a certain level of engagement because there is no interaction with the librarian during the story. We hope to figure out a way to allow for direct interaction online in the future.”
Rhonda Kasper is the Nutrition Program Associate for the University of Missouri Extension Family Nutrition Education Program. Her cooking program “Kids in the Kitchen,” teaches children valuable life skills through cooking at home.
Amy Burkholder operates the bookmobile and her program, “Moment of Science,” is an extension of her bookmobile experiments.
Brower said, “Rhonda and Amy have been wonderful in helping with the move to digital. They have adapted their programs very well. Rhonda has hosted summer programs for the library for years with great success and Amy’s science experiments have always been a favorite of kids at the bookmobile, so her program made an easy transition.”
Brower added that feedback from the community has been very positive.
“Everybody understands that this situation is not ideal and it has been difficult for everybody involved. Most people are just glad that there are any services at all,” he said. “We are also doing contactless curbside pickup and returns for library items and we are waiving all late fees because this time has already been so hard on people.”
The library’s checkout and return procedure has been approved by the health department.
Brower said there is a level of uncertainty about the time-table for the return of inperson programs at the library.
“It’s sad to think that the reopening and return of our in person programs are so uncertain. We know that the return is far out because our small buildings will not allow for proper social distancing. The transition to online Virtual learning keeps children engaged programs has opened us up to a world of possibilities though,” he said. “The virtual presence may become a permanent element of the library. We already have multiple online resources that our patrons can use. This could be the difference in reaching children that typically can’t come to in-person programs due to different circumstances.”
Virtual programs are available for viewing on the Cass County Public Library Facebook page. The program schedule is available for viewing on the library website and curbside reservations can be made with a valid library card by phone.