NORFOLK, VA – Norfolk Public Library (NPL) and Recreation, Parks & Open Space (RPOS) found creative ways to help residents have fun and “get out and play” this summer, despite the pandemic. All summer long, adults and children were encouraged to read through the Summer Reading Program, June 26 – August 7, and participate in virtual programming. RPOS introduced the Rec N’ Roll mobile tour, and E-sports tournaments and leagues.
Summer Reading Program (SRP) is a national initiative that began over 130 years ago to encourage school-aged children to read during their summer vacation. NPL has offered the program for more than 25 years. This year, themed Tails & Tales, the program was 100% online while enabling children and adults to track their reading all summer and win prizes. Participants enjoyed weekly grab-n-go bags and virtual programs. Almost 900 children and adults, and more than 1,400 youth groups (schools, daycares, etc.) have logged nearly 700,000 minutes of reading! SRP ends August 7.
The goal of the Summer Reading Program is to create a love for reading and prevent the summer slump. The summer slump is an observed loss of reading ability in students when they return to school. Research has shown that children who participate in SRP have returned to the school year scoring higher in both math and reading scores. SRP supports the SOLs.
In addition to SRP, NPL curated virtual programming throughout the summer for youth and adults related to arts, crafts, music, storytelling, dance and more. SRP and other NPL programs are generously funded by the Friends of the Norfolk Public Library, more than $20,000 annually.
RPOS introduced a new summer program, Rec N’ Roll, to engage residents. A mobile tour, Rec N’ Roll brings free outdoor activities for youth, ages 5 – 17, to Norfolk parks. RPOS realized the need for outdoor programming, while a limited number of recreation centers were available to the public due to the pandemic. On select Wednesday afternoons, July 7 – August 11, children enjoy field games, cornhole, soccer, frisbee, crafts and more! To-date, more than 85 children have attended a Rec N’ Roll. The final Rec N’ Roll will take place at Barraud Park on August 11. Register now!
At the start of the pandemic last year, RPOS quickly shifted from in-person to virtual programming. Esports became the perfect platform to engage youth and adults. Esports is competitive video gaming where participants face off in single or multi-player games, such as Fortnite, Madden and Rocket League, on various gaming platforms (Xbox, PlayStation, etc.). Since last year, RPOS has offered more than 10 esports tournaments and leagues, with an average of 10 to 30 participants. RPOS is currently participating in a national Fortnite League with 25 teams from around country. These tournaments are made possible through a partnership with GameOn Gaming Center. The next esports event is a Rocket League Tournament on September 17.
Esports is a permanent addition to program offerings for RPOS. RPOS is one of few recreation programs in Hampton Roads to have an established esports program. It hopes to partner and compete with other local cities.
To learn more about these programs, and upcoming fall and back-to-school initiatives, visit norfolkpubliclibrary.org and norfolk.gov/play.