Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Andrea Davenport, Josh Perry, Alizah Qadri
Vicki Funneman watched over a free event by capturing the liveliness of the library’s Outdoor Play Day through her camera.
The youth services assistant at the Suzette Brumleve Memorial Effingham Public Library said the day was a way to get families together in an outdoor setting.
Wednesday’s activities included chalk art, parachute games, an obstacle course and bubbles. Children were seen with wide smiles as they played with others on the library’s lawn.
Funneman said that changes in the weather sometimes mean that events like these don’t always work out.
“It was a good opportunity for us to get outside and play a little bit,” said Funneman. “(We let them) use some gross motor skills and that kind of thing.”
The outdoor play day is a part of the library’s summer reading program. Along with the other activities in the program, the program came at no cost to families. The event didn’t require registration, nor a library card to participate.
Rita Feldhake, the youth services programming consultant, spoke highly of the summer reading program.
“I love it,” said Feldhake. “It’s wonderful. It’s teaching without grading and consequences.”
An organizer of many events for children from preschool to teenagers, Feldhake said she has organized around 16 programs in the last six weeks.
“My idea is to come out here and play new outdoor games and enjoy the good weather,” Feldhake said. “I (accept participants) as young as 2. We don’t really have a cut-off.”
Feldhake said that these summer programs, although meant for fun, are also intended for learning. She believes that they can improve a child’s “gross motor skills.”
She added that the events held at the library are a way to combine education with science, art and technology, creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere.
Katie Lewis, a mother who attended the program, brought four children: three of her own and a niece. Lewis has been attending the library’s events and classes for almost six years now. She spoke about the classes she has attended and why she does so.
“I want them to have fun. It’s something to get them out of the house,” said Lewis. “We’ve been to painting classes this summer. We’ve done clay classes and we’ve done programs about bugs … all sorts of classes.”
This year was no different for Lewis. Attending the classes has always been a pleasure for her and her kids. Not only are the classes entertaining for the youth but they also supply ease for the parents and families — by tiring out their children and getting them exercise.
“We love it here,” Lewis said. “It’s just so awesome. It’s free and it’s classes that normally you would have to pay quite a bit for.”
Amber Schmitz, formerly of Effingham and now living in Minneapolis, said she came back home for the July 4 holiday. With her at the library were her twins, Hazel and Cole, 5, and son, Everett, 2.
“I’ve got to say, I’m impressed with the new library and the kids’ programs,” said Schmitz.
Lewis added that the event is a great gift to the community.
“There’s no reason not to take advantage of it,” she said.