Library Launches Art-Centric Summer Reading Program: From Comics Drawing to Music Production … and Yes, Reading


Anne Kniggendorf

Steve Wieberg

Summer reading programs have been around since the late 19th century, launched by libraries – and endorsed by teachers – to encourage kids to continue to read while school was out.

This is summer reading today …

Revolving around the theme Art Starts at Your Library, the Kansas City Public Library is offering:

  •  Comics-drawing classes and a community art project
  •  Puppet making and Lego block building
  •   Cosplay and anime
  •  CD scratch art and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities

The Library kicked off its 2022 Summer Reading Program this week -- on Wednesday, June 1. Books and reading are still central, with individuals rewarded for reading five titles over a nearly 11-week period ending August 15. The annual initiative remains an antidote to the summer learning slide.

But adults, happily, now make up a third or more of the Library’s summer reading participants. Parents and caregivers make it a full-family experience, and they serve as models reading for the sheer fun of it.

The emphasis in today’s summer reading is on staying engaged and stimulated. On fostering creativity. On having fun.

Many of KCPL’s summer reading activities move back inside this year after being forced outdoors by COVID-19 in 2021 and offered only digitally in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. Children are at the center of the program, starting with storytime sessions at seven of the Library’s 10 locations. The Library incorporates its Pop in at the Park program for activities at four sites across the city – Seven Oaks, Gillham and Concourse parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Square Park – also offering Kids Café meals in partnership with Harvesters.

In a kickoff event in the Central Library's children's area on Saturday, June 4, local writer Jordan Morris and illustrator Charlie Mylie visit for a live reading of their new book, Out on a Limb, about a child’s journey to recovery from a broken leg.  

Kids from ages 3-17 can learn improv in a Young Actors Workshop at the Plaza Branch. Art in the Air employs kites, drones, and rockets at the Southeast Branch. Kids get to Read to a Dog, not only boosting reading skills but also helping with emotional and social development, at the Waldo Branch.

Teens participating in the Kansas City Digital Media Lab’s summer program, operating out of the Library’s Southeast Branch, are producing their own music albums, creating cover art, and marketing the releases.

The lineup also features offerings from a range of local organizations: Mad Science (STEM activities) and Scraps KC (activities using recycled materials), Theatre of the Imagination (drama training) and Urban Tec (digital literacy), the Kansas City Zoomobile and the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center.  

Samantha Edwards, a youth and family engagement librarian at the Library’s North-East Branch, helps anchor the art activities. She holds a degree in drawing and is the author and illustrator of A Tale as Tall as Jacob, a graphic novel geared to juvenile readers that was released by Andrews McMeel in December.  

Edwards created a series of comics creation tutorials for the Library’s Youth and Family Engagement YouTube page a couple of years ago, and is modeling that in her Tuesday night summer reading drawing classes at North-East. Another summer project is the creation of a stained-glass effect on the windows of North-East’s Children’s Studio, using tissue paper with a mixture of corn starch and water. And she’s overseeing create-what-you-want open studio time – “a maker space kind of thing” – for kids and accompanying adults.

Public response to the 2022 Summer Reading Program already is strong, with more than 1,000 people signing up Wednesday. Last year’s program drew nearly 7,500 participants, with some 20,000 books distributed to children, teens, and adults.

For more information on this year’s program, go to Or view the full calendar of Summer Reading activities.