Free Reading Opportunities in Billings
June 17, 2022
by Kelly McCandless
Simply Local readers have heard my plea for kids to read and engage academically during the summer months. It’s a critical component of education and brain development, helping children to retain learning from the recently completed school year while positioning themselves to learn more once school begins.
If the academic reasoning doesn’t resonate with you, the most compelling reason to give children access to books should: literature opens their world, their minds, and their imaginations. Through the pages of a book, a child can enjoy adventures, lose themselves in a character or a made-up land, immerse themselves in history, explore facts through non-fiction, and so much more. A small world becomes boundless with just a few pages and a little imagination.
Billings is fortunate to have many opportunities to help kids with regular access to books. The community boasts a beautiful public library with extensive offerings for kids of all ages (and adults, too, of course!). Their summer programming is robust and encouraging for kids. Local programs sponsor books for children during well-child checks with a pediatrician, many teachers and schools offer reading resources for kids, and there are tons of little free libraries posted throughout the community (find one near you by clicking here).
Another robust program further enhances access to literature during the summer: the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools “Reading Rocks”. The donor supported program partners with the Free Lunch in the Parks program for six weeks during the summer to bring books and kids together. The concept is simple: kids eat their lunch, then enjoy a guest storyteller sharing a book with all in attendance. Afterward, kids are invited to select a book of their own to bring home. Volunteers are on site to help direct children to a book matching their reading level and will offer to read with children until it is time to go.
Reading Rocks | photo courtesy of EFBPS
Books are new or very gently used and vary in reading level from picture books to chapter books. The books are “for keeps” and can help build a child’s personal library. With nine different Reading Rocks sessions offered each week, there is ample opportunity to access quality and engaging literature.
Locations for Summer 2022:
- Mondays 12:15-1pm: Castle Rock Park and Rose Park
- Tuesdays 12:15-1pm: Pioneer Park and Central Park
- Wednesdays 12:15-1pm: Castle Rock Park and Big Sky Elementary
- Thursdays 12:15-1pm: Pioneer Park and Gorham Park
- NEW! Thursdays 5:15-6pm: South Park in conjunction with the Gardener's Market
Volunteers are trained and go through a background check to ensure attendees are in safe hands. Families, friends, groups, and all children are invited to attend as often as they would like. And, while the program is open to anyone under the age of 18, Reading Rocks is targeted to children pre-K through 6th or 7th grades.
To ensure as many children are reading this summer as possible, Reading Rocks also partners with Young Families Early Head Start, the YMCA Summer Camps, and other childcare programs to directly deliver books to kids once per week.
To learn more about how you can volunteer, attend, or donate to Reading Rocks, click here.
Kelly McCandless is a Billings native who loves a well-planned adventure, being outdoors when the weather is nice, historic fiction and hot coffee. She’s passionate about writing, cooking, education, travel and doing all of these things with her husband Ryan and their two incredible daughters