Literacy in the Park


Literacy in the Park (LiP) was a new ICfL initiative during summer 2013. The Idaho Foodbank provides a free lunch program, called “Picnic in the Park,” for youth 18 years and younger. Foodbank trucks travel a circuit to Boise and Garden City parks and apartment complexes Monday through Friday during the summer to distribute lunches. The ICfL developed a traveling lending library that followed the Foodbank trucks for ten weeks.

Project Background
The lending libraries were staffed by an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate and local public librarians. Additional assistance was provided by volunteers who were either private individuals or employees of local businesses who allowed their employees to perform community service.

ICfL’s traveling lending libraries, which are dubbed “Little Libraries,” are large plastic bins filled with a variety of books of interest to children 1-18 years old. They offer a generous read-and-return process, where kids can borrow a book for as long as they want and return it to any Literacy in the Park location and choose another one. Most of the books in the Little Libraries were donated by community members or gathered through book drives.

Resources allowed each park to be served by Literacy in the Park once each week. LiP visited parks on the same day each week so patrons knew from week-to-week when the program would be available. Along with a lending library,Literacy in the Park also provided weekly activities and a weekly storytime. Topics included such things as Libraries Rock!, Delightful Dirt, Wonderful Worms, and Healthy Food.

Please see the Summer Reading Outreach Guidebook for complete details on the project.
Program Purpose, Outcomes, and Objectives
    The project's purpose is to facilitate a collaborative pilot project between local libraries, ICfL, and the Idaho Foodbank to minimize the summer slide for low-income underserved children. The project would be documented and serve as a model for other library outreach programs statewide.

    LiP project goals:
  • To develop children’s interest in life-long learning
  • To motivate children to read over the summer
  • To enable children to maintain their reading skills during the summer
  • To promote local library services and programs to low-income families
  • To attract new users to libraries
  • To foster cooperation between community agencies
  • To serve as a model program for other libraries in the state

  • Objectives:
  • To provide literacy and STEM enrichment activities for an average of 1,000 children each week for eleven weeks
  • To recruit a minimum of five volunteers who will help reach summer outreach goals
  • To develop or strengthen partnerships with a minimum of two agencies
  • To provide information for other libraries on best practices in summer reading outreach in the fall of 2013
  • 75% of children surveyed at the end of the five weeks will indicate they read or listened to more stories during the summer as a result of the project
  • 75% of library and partner staff and volunteers surveyed will indicate a positive experience with the project and partnerships
A typical day looked like the following. The individual from the ICfL with a volunteer assistant arrived at the park during the time the lunch truck was there. Close by the lunch truck, one or two small tables were set up and blankets were spread on the ground to display books and for people to sit on for storytime. The materials for the weekly activity were placed on the tables. Children were given time to complete the activity. This was followed by a storytime, and the cycle concluded with the children and parents/caregivers perusing the books and choosing which ones to take home. No check outs were required. Attendees were asked to return the books if they could the next time they attended. The entire cycle took 30-45 minutes because as many as four parks were visited each day over the roughly two hours that the lunch truck traveled from one park to another. Some parks had many parents/caregivers and children in attendance whereas others had less. Attendance also varied considerably from one week to the next because of weather, summer school schedules, etc. Two LiP teams traveled each day, so as many as eight parks could be served.

Program Overview
In 2013 the Foodbank provided lunch five days a week at 24 sites across Boise and Garden City to over 1,000 children. Foodbank staff have utilized AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates and graciously allocated one of their 10 Associate slots to work full time for ten weeks on the Literacy in the Park program. ICfL staff worked with staff from Ada Community Library, Boise Public Library, and Garden City Public Library to plan activities and figure out a schedule to cover each of the 24 sites one day per week for ten weeks during the summer.

Each site visit lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to just under two hours. Staff read one or two books, often incorporated a song or fingerplays, and then focused on the week’s enrichment activity and encouraging kids to take out books from the Little Libraries bin.

Community partners and volunteers were an integral part of the success of the program. Using and the AmeriCorps network, volunteers were recruited to support each route. A newspaper editor, Head Start teacher, bank employee, Master’s Literacy student, and Americorps Reads VISTAs participated. They helped children select books from the Little Libraries, did storytime, and helped with the enrichment activities. Over 500 volunteer hours were logged for the program, including the 40 hours per week the Summer Associate dedicated to the program. Local businesses donated soil, seeds, plastic containers, and gift cards. The Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial Organization donated jump ropes, magnifying glasses, mini-binoculars, pencils, and other supplies.

Evaluation, Forms, and Results
    Dr. Roger Stewart, BSU Literacy Professor and Read to Me evaluator, designed surveys for youth and parents or caregivers. The last two weeks of the program, Dr. Stewart, Read to Me team members, and a public librarian went to each of the 23 sites to individually ask the survey questions to youth and parents.

    64 children ranging in age from three to 15 answered the 10 questions asked of them. When asked if they read more this summer than in previous summers, 45 of the 64 reported they read more this summer. When asked why they read more, responses ranged from finding a great book or several books they enjoyed to “I want to be smart!” Several cited having “the library” come to the park as the impetus in reading more this summer. When asked if the summer reading activities in the park were fun, all but eight said yes. When asked if they attended the public library summer reading program, 43 of 64 said no. 38 of 64 said they visited the public library this summer.

    65 parents or caregivers took time to answer surveyors’ questions. Respondents were asked if their children liked the books that they received. 50 of 51 respondents said yes and the other response was “some.” No one said no, didn’t read them, or not sure. When asked whether their children read more during the summer than in previous summers, 38 of 59 respondents said yes (64.4%). 16 said no and 5 said didn’t know. Reasons given for reading more were convenient access to books through the Literacy in the Park program, interesting books available, and their children finding a particular interest in reading (e.g., genre, author, topic) and thus reading more.

    Staff and volunteers were also asked to collect anecdotal comments throughout the program. Here are a few comments that were collected:
  • A mom told us that after seeing us last week she took her kids to the library for the first time and got them library cards. She herself hadn’t been to the library since she was a kid.”
  • As a child was picking out lots of books she said, “I’m going to be reading all summer!”
  • Kids asked for books in Spanish so their mom could read to them. And we had a nice selection to offer.
  • Mom says kids look forward to the library at each park they go to. “It’s the highlight of their day!”
  • One mother said having the library come to the parks made it easier for her. “With four kids, getting any place is difficult. I really appreciate what you are doing. Thank you.”
  • A dad found a book in the Little Libraries he liked as a child and read it to his son.

  • The full 2013 Literacy in the Park evaluation report is available.

Program and Activity Schedule
    This summer the program runs June 8 through August 7. Local librarians and community volunteers are conducting the summer learning efforts throughout the Treasure Valley. The Literacy in the Park schedule for Boise and Garden City is:
  • Mondays:
    Elm Grove Park (2200 W. Irene St., 12-12:30 p.m.)
    Sunset Park (2625 N. 32nd St., 11:15-11:45 a.m.)
    Oak Park Village Apartments (2888 Cherry Lane, 12:45-1:15 p.m.)
    Cassia Park (4600 W. Camas St., 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.)
    Ivywild Park (416 W. Ivywild St., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
    Phillippi Park (2299 S. Phillippi St., 12:15-1:15 p.m.)
  • Tuesdays:
    Davis Park Apartments (970 N. 29th St., 12:45-1:15 p.m.)
    Fairview Crossing Apartments (8519 W. Fairview Ave., 11:45-12:15 p.m.)
    Manitou Park (2001 S. Manitou Ave., 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.)
    Mystic Cove Park (4750 W. Mystic Cove Way, 12:30-1 p.m.)
    Pioneer Square Apartments (1220 Grand Ave., 12:40-1:10 p.m.)
    Wylie St. Station Apartments (4683 Wylie Lane, 11:45-12:15 p.m.)
  • Wednesdays:
    Liberty Park (520 N. Liberty St., 12-12:30 p.m.)
    Borah Park (801 S. Aurora Dr., 1-1:30 p.m.)
    Phillippi Park (2299 S. Phillippi St., 12:30-1:30 p.m.)
    Owyhee Park (3400 W. Elder St., 11:30 a.m. to noon)
    Winstead Park (6150 W. Northview St., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Thursdays:
    Castle Hills Park (5350 Eugene St., 1:10-1:40 p.m.)
    Garden City Library (6015 Glenwood St., 12:15-12:45 p.m.)
    Redwood Park (2675 N. Shamrock, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
    Comba Park (2995 Five Mile Rd., 12:30-1 p.m.)
    Latah Village Apartments (3905 Alpine St., 11-11:30 a.m.)
    Veteran’s Park (930 N. Veterans Memorial Parkway, 12:15-1:30 p.m.)
    Shannon Glen Apartments (10140 Charlie Lane, 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
  • Fridays:
    Valley View Elementary (3555 N. Milwaukee, 12:15 -12:45 p.m.)
    Mountain View Park (7006 W. Ustick Rd., 11:30 a.m. to noon)
LiP Resources


  • Book It Forward!
  • Idaho Dairy Council
  • Boise Rescue Mission
    Funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
    LittleLibrariesPostcard-2015.pub363.5 KB
    Bibliography for Homelessness & Poverty.pdf305.42 KB