Summer park, library program numbers grow in River Forest
Alex Hong (center), 12, of River Forest plays croquet with sister Hannah (left), 11, and Hannah Keidan, 12, of River Forest outside the River Forest Public Library Aug. 23, along with Margaret Banerji, head of teen services. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 3:53PM
From youth reading programs to concerts in the park, library and park district programs in River Forest surged this summer.
A combination of factors played a role in program increases. Better marketing efforts, increasing program popularity, District 90 schools starting later this year, more people staying in town and rain-free days all helped create a successful summer for the local entities.
Numbers continue to rise every summer for the River Forest Park District’s summer day camps, Recreation Services Manager Karen Scherrer said.
“I think it is the variety we offer. We have kids who spend the whole day, but it is not something they have to do,” Scherrer said.
Scherrer said the park district’s summer camps continue to increase by about 5 percent each year.
Another well-attended park district event this summer was the Thursday Night Party in the Park, held once a month.
“Three or four years ago, we had bigger bands, but did not draw that many people” Scherrer said. “We know our market better now and people have heard about the free event.”
Scherrer believes this year’s numbers were boosted by more residents doing “staycations” and working more from home.
And Scherrer knows how busy the park district is these days, at a time when staff usually catches its breath and transitions to fall programming. Scherrer has helped out with summer camp for the past few weeks as college staffers returned to school. District 90 schools do not begin until after Labor Day, due to construction projects.
“A lot of parents are still trying to find things to do with their kids,” Scherrer said.
The River Forest Public Library also saw program boosts this summer. The library saw a 7 percent increase in its youth summer reading program, going from 601 participants last year to 641.
Sue Quinn, head of children’s services for the River Forest Library, said getting into River Forest schools to talk about the library’s summer reading program helped boost participation.
She also believes more people spent the summer in town.
“We also had word-of-mouth marketing,” Quinn said. “We saw a huge jump in the program three years ago and we have had sustained and increased attendance over the past few years. Last year, (growth) was flat, but the program has gone up by one-third in the past four years.”
For Lori Roeger, putting her 8-year-old son, Charles, in this summer’s manners class at the River Forest Public Library was great reinforcement.
“Kids don’t learn manners just from you,” Roeger said. “They need to know what silverware to use with certain parts of the meal. They need to know that it is not only a parent who expects them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
“It was good for him to hear another point of view. I thought more of a teacher setting would help reinforce those lessons.”
And while her brother may have picked up manners tips, 10-year-old Olivia Roeger picked up a Kindle Fire as the grand prize winner in the library summer reading program.
“Kids all need a goal,” Lori Roeger said of the benefits of the summer reading program. “Kids all want to play and swim, but if you have them in a duty program, with an end goal, like the summer reading program, they will read on their own.”