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Southwest Alabama public library offers lessons of learning and fun through end of July


Two more weeks of story times, art classes, yoga, interactive science activities and more are taking place at a public library in southwestern Alabama.

The Summer Learning Program wraps up next Friday, July 28, at Washington County Public Library in Chatom. The annual event originally started as a weeklong program, but organizers say it’s since expanded into eight to ten full weeks of daily activities at the facility throughout the summer.

This year’s program series kicked off on June 5. Activities this week at the library include puppet making, STEM learning on engineering and the weekly outdoor movie to name a few. Another event this summer is Kiddie Yoga. The Well at Chatom Yoga and Wellness Studio hosts the classes each Wednesday throughout the month of July at the library.

Washington Public Library

Jessica Ross is the director of the Washington County Public Library. She said the summer program has deep roots in the community.

“There are not a lot of educational, recreational outlets for children in small rural areas,” she explained. “And so, the Summer Learning Program at the Washington County Public Library is sort of the hub of cultural activities, educational activities, recreational activities for kids in the summertime here.”

Free lunch and a snack are also offered daily. Ross said providing this service is essential to feeding the Gulf Coast community.

“Students that are out of school during the summertime can be ensured a fresh, healthy meal during the day and snacks later in the afternoon. And in our community, that also has been a bonus for families in our area,” she explained. “You know, kind of bridging that gap between access to healthy, nutritious food during the summertime when they're out of school.”

Ross said the library has seen its highest attendance or registration ever in the summer of 2023 with more than 300 children currently registered. She also said nearly 40 programs are being offered this summer at the facility, which are opened to residents of Washington County and visitors alike.

“Anyone that's visiting or lived here can come and register for free and enjoy their time while they're in the area and come and have snacks and lunches with us,” Ross explained. “And there's always some type of takeaway, like arts and crafts experience, or we have bookmarks at a book fair. We also have a Scholastic Book Fair going on right now that they can come and shop for gifts for Christmas or birthdays that's going on. It's elaborate.”

Ross said the reason the library puts on the program each summer is to not only encourage reading and learning, but to also plant seeds for inspiring future career goals and interests for the kids in the community.

“I think it's important for us to provide some really memorable, meaningful programs that open up their eyes to new opportunities and certainly broaden their perspectives for what's out there to learn and to know and to explore,” she said.

According to the Washington County Library’s Facebook page, children and teens were also encouraged to read for fun and for prizes in a reading contest throughout June. A prize for Top Reader will be awarded, and participants will be entered for other prizes each time they attend programs and read books. These prizes will be awarded at the library on Friday, June 28.

There are still plenty of free events for kids to take part in before the Summer Learning Program comes to a close. Registration is required for events but can be done in-person at the library or online. Click here for a look at the Washington County Library’s summer calendar.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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