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Delray Beach Library On The Go Golf Cart Aims To Keep Children Active And Fight Summer Slide

Library on the go.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
This is the Library On The Go golf cart by the Delray Beach Public Library. It's their version of a modern day book mobile. It delivers books and an internet hotspot. Catherine Strong Park, Delray Beach

When poet Emily Dickinson wrote "How frugal is the chariot that bears the human soul!" she was referring to books. And the journeys of imagination they can take us on.

The Delray Beach Public Library is bringing the library experience to neighborhoods across the city. And they’re doing it by way of a golf cart — it’s all the rage for children searching for free books and summer programs.

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The Library on the Go golf cart is “a modern-day book mobile,” said Karen Ronald, executive director of the Delray Beach Public Library.

Ronald says children at various parks browse books, use available laptops, and join librarians for arts and crafts. The golf cart helps parents fight learning loss during the summer — and the ongoing pandemic.

“We know there are a lot of people here who need help with reading,” said Ronald. “We know the scores are down because of our challenging COVID year, so why don’t we bring the librarians and resources right into the neighborhood?”

Ronald said the positive responses from children and parents have inspired the library to extend the program.

“Everyone thinks it's such a magical thing that our library has a golf cart. We drive through the neighborhoods, we wave, people gather around us, the kids climb all over the golf cart," said Ronald. “It's a happy thing and it's a very Delray thing because lots of people drive in golf carts.”

Jasmine Hill, a frequent visitor of the Delray Beach Library, has a 6-year-old daughter who is an avid reader and an outdoorsy 3-year-old son.

The Delray Beach native says the summer program encourages her home-schooled children to sustain love for reading and participate in other fun activities that enhance literacy.

Delray Library go park.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
Children at the Catherine Strong Park participating in activities within the Library On The Go program, hosted by the Delray Beach Public Library.

“In the summer it’s very easy to get comfortable not engaging your brains so keeping it fun and light and allowing them to engage their brains in the manner that they want to and that's not necessarily forced on them,“ Hill said.

“Then it will encourage them to love to learn all the time.”

Hill joined other parents and children at the Catherine Strong Park in Delray Beach. She says her kids were “pleasantly surprised” by the other activities, like the use of a Code-a-Pillar, a toy that encourages kids how to code.

“They are very open to this experience because, like I said with my son, he's very outdoorsy,” said Hill. “So the fact that he can run around for a little bit and then I can call him back to have a seat on the grass to read a story, it works for me because he's a kinesthetic learner, so he needs activity while he's reading.”

Ronald, who's originally from Canada, says she has been a library director for 25 years and has been in Florida for the last four years. She pointed out the importance of story time for children, which helps with literacy skills and learning loss, but noted that “not everyone wants to sit in a story time.”

She said the program caters to different skill levels and needs.

“A tween doesn't want to [do] story time," said Ronald. “They have different needs because their brains are developing at a different rate than children. They have different social needs.”

From translating documents into Haitian Creole to teaching seniors about computers and establishing book clubs, Ronald says the Library on the Go is trying to connect with neighborhoods in "a more accessible way."

Delray Library go kids.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
Librarians lead various activities before reading with children at the Catherine Strong Park for the new Library On The Go program, hosted by the Delray Beach Public Library.

Funds for the golf cart and other resources, including computers and an internet hotspot, came from the Pat Moran Family Foundation.

The pilot program is also for teens and seniors and the library updates the programming schedule on its website.

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.