With a proposed $10-12 million expansion in the works at Keene Memorial Library, it is safe to say the local library is preparing for a lot of big changes.
But as the calendar turns to May, and the summer inches closer, one ever-popular library program certainly isn’t in limbo.
The Keene Memorial Library Summer Reading Program is set to return later this month with a kick-off party at John C. Fremont Park on May 24 from 1-3 p.m.
The kick-off event will features fun, games and face-painting and other activities and is sponsored by Keene and the City of Fremont Parks and Recreation Department.
In year’s past the event has featured a bouncy house, sidewalk chalk art, dodgeball and many other activities along with the chance to sign up for the annual program.
“We just try to make the event as fun as possible and try to get as many kids to come down and sign up for the Summer Reading Program as we can,” Librarian II and Summer Reading Program coordinator Laura England-Biggs said.
Every summer, hundreds of area children, teens and adults dedicate a portion of their time to bettering their minds through the Keene Memorial Library Summer Reading Program.
One of the major goals of the program is to ensure that students of all ages don’t lose reading comprehension through summer learning loss, England-Biggs said.
England-Biggs has coordinated the Summer Reading Program for years, and her passion for it hasn’t wavered a bit during that time. One of her goals, she said, is always just to find a way to get students through Keene Memorial Library’s doors; the rest usually takes care of itself.
Last year’s Summer Reading Program proved to be very successful as 226 children, 25 teens and 64 adults signed up to participate – England-Biggs said that 64 percent of those logged reading minutes.
“We ended up with 315 people signing up to read, and of those people, 203 actually logged minutes, which is a 109-percent increase from 2016 from 186 (logging minutes),” she said in an interview with the Tribune in 2017.
Another positive from last year’s Summer Reading Program was that a record number of readers earned digital badges through Beanstack, the reading database. These digital badges recognize reading accomplishments and progress being made.
To earn a single badge, readers had to put in 110 minutes of work. In 2017, readers earned a grand total of 1,243 badges.
“We saw a 150-percent increase in the number of badges earned this year,” England-Biggs said. “That’s a huge plus that we saw.”
In addition to plenty of reading, participants in the Summer Reading Program are annually treated to the opportunity to attend Special Program Mondays, where a variety of fun, entertaining shows and activities are held.
According to England-Biggs, Special Program Mondays are an ideal way to get prospective readers into the program.
“It always engages people, it brings them through the door, and once we get them through the door we can really show them everything we do,” she said.
One longtime attraction at Special Program Mondays is award-winning magician Jeff Quinn, who has been performing magic during the program for over a decade.
“If we don’t have Jeff Quinn here, then it just isn’t summer reading,” England-Biggs said.
While there is plenty of fun to be had during the Summer Reading Program, the overall goal of the program is to help kids maintain – and often enhance – those skills.
The skills acquired and developed during the program are frequently revealed in the following year’s reading test scores, England-Biggs said.
“We have seen a growth in reading scores from the kids who take part in reading programs,” she said. “Locally we have seen an increase when they come out and participate in summer reading. I know nationally there is a similar trend also.”
Pre-registration for Keene’s Summer Reading Program is currently open and can be made by visiting keene.beanstack.org/reader365.
Christian Willis has been counting the days until he goes to camp this summer.
“I started counting down right after camp ended last year until camp starts this year,” said Willis, a 17-year-old Fremont High School student.
This will be the sixth time Willis has attended Camp Floyd Rogers, a specialized camp for youth ages 8-18 with Type 1 diabetes.
On Saturday, the Fremont Cosmopolitan Club 100 will host its annual Spokes and Sneakers event, designed to raise funds to help send students to camp.
Activities begin at 9 a.m. in the Christensen Field parking lot in Fremont.
The public is invited to the activities, which include a bike rodeo, safety checks and bike registration.
Fremont Health will conduct diabetic screenings.
At 9:30 a.m., area residents are invited to participate in a 5-mile bike ride.
Riders will go from Christensen Field to Hormel Park and back. A water station will be situated in Hormel Park. Hiking along the Platte River will be available as well.
The cost is $25 for a family ride; $15 for a single entry.
This event is the club’s main fundraiser. Proceeds will be used to help send 10 area students to the camp where they can learn how to manage their diabetes. The camp is also a chance for a students to be around other youth who have diabetes and participate in fun activities.
The five-day camp costs $1,100 per camper.
“Our club sponsors the first $550,” said Kellee Rasmussen, Spokes and Sneakers coordinator.
The camper then matches that amount.
Rasmussen said doctors and nurses volunteer their time at the camp. Volunteers show students how to use insulin pumps properly.
“They go over nutrition and physical exercise and all the things they (campers) need to have a healthy lifestyle,” Rasmussen said.
Willis can attest to how he’s benefited from camp.
“It’s helped me become a better person in making friends that have diabetes and helped me take care of myself better,” Willis said.
Students, like Josie Bell, also appreciate the variety of opportunities they have at camp.
“The activities are really fun and since you’re all Type 1 diabetic it’s one thing you can talk about and know that you’re all the same in that way,” the seventh-grader said. “It’s a cool bonding that you all have.”
Josie said she stays in contact with almost all of her cabin mates.
“We stay in touch a lot,” she said.
And it helps to know other kids are dealing with diabetes, too.
“It’s definitely comforting when it’s really rough,” she said.
This will be Josie’s third year at camp. She still recalls her first year there.
“When I was a newly diagnosed kid, I went to camp that same year – which I thought was going to be a little hard,” Josie said. “But being around a cabin of kids that all kind of understand made it a lot easier.”
She enjoys camp activities.
“The final banquet is really fun,” she said. “It’s always on the night before we go home. We always do a dance. There’s a theme with a costume and that’s pretty fun.”
There are other activities, too.
“We take hikes around certain areas that are near the camp. That’s pretty fun,” Josie said.
Fishing has snagged Willis’ interest.
“My favorite part would have to be the fishing, because they have really good fishing there,” he said.
Willis’ enthusiasm with fishing probably isn’t hard to understand considering his future plans.
“I plan on going to college and either getting my bachelor’s degree in biology and either being a marine biologist or a game warden,” he said.
For now, he’s just looking ahead to his time at camp.
“It’s kind of like a second home to me,” Willis said. “I can get around other diabetics and be around people who know what I’m going through.”
Rasmussen and other club members are looking forward to the Spokes and Sneakers fundraiser.
“We are excited to get to use the new Ridge Road trail,” she said.
In the past, the bike ride has taken in place in other areas.
“This is going to be the perfect fit,” she said. “It’s a paved bike trail.”
She invites area residents to take part.
“I hope we have at least 50 to 100 participants,” she said. “It’s a great family activity.”
Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont is Sen. Bob Krist’s choice as his running mate.
Krist will announce his choice Tuesday, then embark on a three-day statewide tour with Walz beginning in Omaha and moving through 10 communities as he steps up his Democratic gubernatorial campaign following adjournment of the Legislature.
Walz is a former school teacher who is now a realtor and is midway through her first term.
She will enter the race with statewide name recognition challenges.
“You will really like her,” Krist said a couple of weeks ago without revealing her name.
Senators occasionally substitute for pastors in delivering the prayer that opens each legislative day, and Walz did that on Valentine’s Day, offering a glimpse of what makes her tick.
Directly addressing the Legislature’s pages, who are college students, she said:
“Pages, I also thought about you a lot this morning and how I wish our generation would be better role models for you when it comes to showing love to others because, honestly, we are not too good at that.
“We have found ourselves being too selfish with our time, our money and our thoughts.”
Walz defeated Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner, an appointee of Gov. Pete Ricketts, in 2016.
A Walz bill (BL998) providing for privately funded behavioral and mental health assistance within educational service units for students and families was vetoed by Ricketts earlier this month. It was enacted on the final day of this year’s legislative session and vetoed after senators went home.
“I am appalled the governor would veto a bill that helps so many children and families,” Walz said in response to the veto last week.
In his veto message, the governor said the bill “unnecessarily inserts the state between private funders and the political subdivisions” receiving those donations.
Krist will officially announce his choice for Lt. Governor at 10 a.m. at Steamfitters & Plumbers Local Union 464, 13505 B Street in Omaha.
From Omaha, the tour will continue that afternoon with a stop at the State Capital in Lincoln at noon, the Chocolate Bar at 116 West Third Street in Grand Island at 3 p.m. and at the Steeple Brewery at 717 West First Street in Hastings at 5 p.m.
On Wednesday, the tour will stop at Tru Cafe at 2100 Central Ave in Kearney at 9 a.m.; at Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center at 1249 North Homestead Rd. in North Platte at 12:30 p.m. followed by various stops in Lexington.
The tour will wrap up on Friday with stops in Columbus at 8 a.m., Norfolk at 11:30 a.m. and South Sioux City at 2 p.m. Black Cow Fat Pig at 702 West Norfolk Ave. will host the tour for its stop in Norfolk. Hosts for the Columbus and South Sioux City stops have yet to be determined.