For more than a decade, the Sanibel Public Library (SPL) has offered an exciting summer reading program for families. Despite challenges from impacts of Hurricane Ian, summer 2023’s program welcomed back locals as well as many young readers who are new to the area. During past summer reading programs (SRP), children read for others, and “earned” books based on the hours they read and from completing challenges. The great thing about the SRP program is that participants earn not only books for their personal collection, but also books for patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

This summer, 115 participants earned books (for activities and reading time) for themselves and 938 books for the Hospital. Children (ages baby-to-18) logged 40,389 minutes of reading, or listened to caregivers read to them, for a total of 673 hours. Educators at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida use these donated books to supplement lessons for young patients at the hospital. Since its inception in 2012, readers have helped to contribute more than 14,500 books to the hospital. New books are needed every year because books are given to patients to take home, and can’t be shared because of the possibility of spreading illness.

This summer families attended storytimes with Megan Willis, who works in SPL’s Youth Services, as well as storytimes lead by preschool teachers from Children’s Education Center of the Islands (CECI). There were Monday afternoon family-friendly films, and programs for ’tweens and teens – like VR and an Escape Room. Presenters for school-aged children included staff from Sanibel Fire & Rescue, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, C.R.O.W., and Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Families “met” bats from Tampa Bay Bats, heard didgeridoo music, and enjoyed a presentation by master storyteller Windell Campell. Families enjoyed making “mini parade floats” from shoeboxes and art lessons from Melissa Gindling.

“It was great to meet so many families this summer! Parents told us they were grateful for the SPL summer reading program, because so many camps in Southwest Florida were cancelled due to storm damage,” said SPL’s Megan Willis.

Summer reading programs help students avoid the ‘Summer Slide,’ the loss of reading proficiency during the break from school. This year’s SRP theme – All Together Now, highlights the power of libraries and reading to unite communities and people of all ages. Books give us a glimpse into other experiences and cultures, helping us to feel more connected and knowledgeable about the world.

In addition to earning books, children in grades kindergarten through sixth earned shell collection bags, as well as “brag tags.” Teens earned community service hours for writing books reviews, or participating in programs. Letters for Volunteer Hours Earned are available for pickup.

The Sanibel Public Library Foundation, along with the Joan Hunt Cory Children’s Fund, underwrites the annual summer reading program. The Children’s Fund was established in 2008 to honor longtime library volunteer and supporter Joan Hunt Cory. The SPL Foundation provides, supports, and supplements library services of Sanibel and assists in the promotion of reading and literacy. Since 2006 the Foundation has provided more than $1 million in grant funding to support Library Author Series; the annual Summer Reading Program; a TeenSpace Room; and technology initiatives including cutting-edge computer hardware and software; early literacy computers; eBooks; mobile apps; and more.

From now through October 21, 2023 stop by the Library to see 18 artworks from the Sanibel-Captiva Art League’s juried exhibit, “Food for Thought.”

Sanibel Public Library cards are available to all residents of Sanibel and Lee County, Florida, at no charge. You must present your valid driver’s license (or similar government ID) to staff, showing your current Lee County address. Visitor cards are available for a $10 fee and are good for one year.

For media inquiries about Sanibel Public Library – contact Maureen Tesoro – (239) 472-2483.