A community favorite from last year has figured out how to go digital with efforts to promote literacy despite social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mama Merry Books, an effort which began last summer when Patti Merry decided to take her love for reading and share it with the community as she hid books throughout local parks for families to find, has now turned virtual in hopes of continuing her efforts.
“It began by me collecting books from my Facebook friends. Then I bagged up books with directions and hid them in local parks,” Merry said. “I created a Facebook page to promote the location of the books — that way people would be able to find them. Children would find the books, read them, and then rehide them at the park. People would post clues of the new location or they would post pictures of them having so much fun with Mama Merry Books.”
The idea behind Mama Merry Books stemmed from an initial idea Merry had of painting rocks and hiding them for people to find.
“The idea that began Mama Merry Books was when painting rocks and hiding them was very popular. I thought it would be a great idea to do this with books to make literacy fun and engaging for children,” Merry said. “The first year was a success, because Mama Merry was able to hide over 800 books in local parks.”
“So many families had the opportunity to read together and build such fun memories together by looking and reading Mama Merry Books. Building positive memories to reading is a key to developing a successful reader; I hope I was able to accomplish this for so many children,” Merry added.
This summer, Merry wanted to continue her efforts, but had to come up with a new idea due to COVID-19 and the need to social distance and sanitize — which would’ve been near impossible to do had she stuck with the original idea.
“With so many unknowns with COVID-19, I decided this year would be different for the safety of young children. Many children activities and sports were canceled, so I thought I would follow suit with these decisions for the safety and well-being of children,” Merry said. “The plan this year to is to do Mama Merry weekly challenges. I will post on the Facebook page weekly challenges for the children to do. Once they have completed the challenge they can post a picture on the page that shows they have completed the challenge.”
Now, a few weeks into the Mama Merry weekly challenges, Merry encourages those who haven’t yet checked out the program to do so as soon as they can.
“People can participate by checking on the Facebook page or email me Mamamerrybooks@gmail.com for the weekly challenge,” Merry said. “Week one challenge is to create your own Flat Mama Merry. The parent can print the image or the children can draw their own Flat Mama Merry and place it on a Popsicle stick. Then the child can bring Flat Mama Merry with them on the weekly challenges and take photos.”
The week two challenge, which allows children the explore reading spaces within their own homes, is also ready for challenge participants to do.
“The week two challenge is to complete a choice board by finding a special spot to read a story. The child will be able to choose where they would like to read, then take a photo and share it on the Mama (Merry) Facebook page,” Merry said.
While the challenge will change weekly to keep children engaged, Merry’s efforts to encourage families and children to read will also be the basis for the challenges.
“Participants can look forward to fun and engaging activities to do with their child throughout the summer through literacy activities. My hope is that people will continue building meaningful relationships with reading with their children through positive learning experiences. This way children will develop a love of reading early on,” Merry said.
Merry’s own love of literacy comes from her education and desire to spark joy in reading in others.
“This is so important to me, because I am a 2020 graduate from St. Cloud State University with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Helping and guiding young children and their families is my passion,” Merry said. “My hope is that Mama Merry Books can make a positive impact on so many young children though literacy.”
For more information on Mama Merry Books, or to participate in the Mama Merry weekly challenges email MamaMerryBooks@gmail.com or follow Mama Merry Books on Facebook.