By Cat Ford
The historic Riverwalk has been hosting outdoor storytimes since 1986, shortly after the Nichols Library moved from its previous location on Washington street to its successor on Jefferson Avenue. The 95th Street Library followed suit in the summer of 2020, implementing its storytimes at the 95th Street Community Plaza.
Amanda Hanson and Monica Minnick are the enthusiastic Child Services Supervisors at the Nichols and 95th Street Libraries. Together they seek to encourage a love of reading and kinship in people of all ages, via programming. Monica has worked with the Naperville Public Library since 1997, providing support for established programs and helping with the development of new ones. Amanda has served the public as a children’s librarian for over twenty years and has worked with the Naperville Public Libraries for three of those years. Amanda, Monica, and their support staff select stories for each event based on the season, current events, and anticipated levels of audience participation.
Storytime programs include the Family Story Time in the Park, Evening on the Riverwalk, and Picnic on the Riverwalk, which are offered every summer.
Family Story Time in the Park
The Family Story Time in the Park is held at the Wagner Pavilion in the 95th Street Community Plaza. Family Story Time is a 30-minute program of stories, songs, and fun activities. Amanda shared that some of the greatest story time moments are when children, parents, and other community members are drawn to the readings while having fun at the Community Plaza’s splash pad and play area. These accidental attendees did not have any knowledge of the library’s events and once drawn in, often become regular visitors of the libraries.
Amanda also recalled another favorite moment when three dogs became as immersed as their owners in the songs and dancing and started prancing around with the children. She delights in being able to share the library’s resources with everyone outside in the fresh air and sunshine. The surprised pleasure that community members experience upon finding free entertainment is an element that Amanda genuinely enjoys about outdoor storytimes.
She shared that they finalize their program right before the program! They come together, bringing material (books, songs, action rhymes) that they would each like to do and they see what works best in a practice session/run before the program. This is when they finalize their playlist as well. The gives staff flexibility in their programs to make changes as they see fit.
The audience finds out during the program!
Family Story Time
Monday, August 1, 2022, and August 8, 2022
95th Street Library, Community Plaza
Evening and Picnic on the Riverwalk
For programs on the Riverwalk, Monica and her team select stories based on different themes and adapt these stories into puppet shows, adding their own sound effects. Under Monica’s guidance, the library produced four new shows this summer alone! These shows increase community engagement with the written word and within the audience itself. Like the Family Story Time in the Park, Riverwalk programs are tailored for children of all ages but are open for anyone to attend.
For Monica, hosting these programs at the picturesque Riverwalk Amphitheater creates an open, casual setting for large groups of people to share meals with one another and enjoy the puppet show, story, and other activities. It’s rewarding to her when people walking along the Riverwalk join the events, having no knowledge of the programming beforehand. These attendees often tell her about how much they love the program and wish to return.
All children’s staff, both associates and librarians, do programming at the Naperville Public Library. At the Nichols Library location, the outdoor storytimes are presented by 3 to 4 staff each week, plus a supervisor who oversees audio and crowd control. Crowds are bigger for the outdoor events and when choosing material, staff thinks about making sure the crowd can see and participate in the story. Monica tells us they use large props outside. Again, these are unveiled to the public at the time they are presented!
Evening on the River
Tuesdays August 2, 2022, to August 9, 2022
7:00pm – 7:45pm
Nichols Library, Riverwalk Amphitheater
Picnic on the Riverwalk
August 3, 2022 – August 10, 2022
Nichols Library, Riverwalk Amphitheater
Details for the programs they offer for the rest of the year are available at any of the three Naperville Public Library Locations.