The Naperville Public Library offers a chance for everyone in the community—regardless of age—to explore, learn, and create. The library’s art programming makes art and creative learning accessible to the Naperville community in tangible ways, even for our youngest residents.
Erin Shinneman, children’s librarian at the Naperville Public Library, says free art programming gives families an opportunity to experience and enjoy the creative process together. “For children especially, art gives them an opportunity to develop skills, such as creative thinking and problem solving,” Shinneman says.
The library offers a few types of art programs geared toward different ages: Mini Masterpieces for birth to 24 months, Makerspaces for elementary schoolers, and Community Art Walls for art lovers of all ages. Each program offers a valuable opportunity for visitors to connect with their creative side.
Designed for babies and toddlers and their adult caregivers, Mini Masterpieces offers a story time paired with a craft. The librarians select age-appropriate books that are interactive, have simple and repetitive text, and reinforce skills for the target age group. Some favorite authors include Karen Katz, Eric Carle, Mary Murphy, and Keith Baker.
After the story time, children and caregivers work together on a simple craft, such as a special handprint or footprint keepsake. The library asks attendees to register in advance and limits the group to 10 child/caregiver pairs.
The Naperville Public Library will offer Mini Masterpieces this fall and winter at all three branches. Please check the events page on the library’s website for dates and times.
Makerspaces is a weekly, self-directed STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) activity geared toward 3rd–5th graders. Each location has a designated area for Makerspaces that is available during after-school hours. The activities give kids the opportunity to think creatively and use problem-solving skills as they work independently.
Some recent Makerspaces activities have included completing engineering challenges (building a tall structure, a strong structure, a bridge, etc.), flying paper helicopters, designing/testing catapults, making tangram art, and playing math games.
Each library location offers Makerspaces during after-school hours in its children’s department. Please check with individual branches to confirm hours of availability.
Community Art Walls
The Community Art Wall program was born from the library’s strategic plan to investigate opportunities for displaying public art as a means of increasing cultural programming and serving Naperville’s diverse population. Library staff created the initial displays for the first art wall at the 95th Street Library in 2017.
Today, there are three display areas—one at each branch—available for exhibits of framed or mounted artworks by local artists, students in Districts 203 and 204 schools, and not-for-profit groups. Typically, exhibits are on display for three months before they’re replaced with something new. Artists interested in displaying their artwork can submit an online form found on the library’s website.
Shinneman has been part of the Community Art Wall program since the beginning. “Being able to give local artists and organizations an opportunity to share their talents with the community has been extremely rewarding,” she says. Community Art Walls are continuously on display at each location. Check out the library’s Facebook page for examples of current and past art wall exhibits.
Why Art at the Library?
As Shinneman sees it, art and literacy complement each other, and the library is the perfect place to tap into one’s creative side. “In our story times, we focus on the five early literacy practices—reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing,” she explains. “These practices help children develop the skills they need to become successful readers. Art is applicable to many of the five early literacy practices. For example, children can use context clues from the illustrations in a picture book to predict what is going to happen next in the story. Drawing is one of the first forms of writing young children practice. Asking children to describe their artwork is a wonderful way to practice vocabulary skills. Lastly, art allows children to be creative and use their imaginations!”
From creating a mini masterpiece to enjoying others’ artistic talents on an art wall, the Naperville Public Library weaves art, literacy, and community together—and that’s a beautiful combination.
For more about the library’s offerings, visit www.naperville-lib.org.
Author: Bethanie Hestermann, Bethanie Hestermann is a freelance writer and author. She’s written five animal-science books for kids, with a sixth being published next year. When not writing, she loves camping and traveling with her family. She earned her M.A. in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University.