CLSC Young Readers Program brings books to life

Leah Rankin | Staff Writer

There are obvious ways to enjoy summer, like swimming, bike riding, ice cream and picnics. But for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle’s Young Readers Program, the summer — which is full of talking animals, angels, poets, unlikely heroes and adventure — is anything but typical.

Young Readers know that the summer makes for an extraordinary opportunity to explore new worlds and ideas through books. As the season kicks off Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. in the Garden Room of Alumni Hall, children young and old will be transported through the creative imaginations of nine different authors.

Jack Voelker, director of the Department of Recreation and Youth Services, has chosen the books for each season since the program began in 1994. He believes that pairing entertaining programs with a variety of books not only reinforces the importance of quality literature but entices young readers to challenge their imaginations while enjoying a good story.

“Each year, the challenge is to top the year before,” Voelker said. “I get excited seeing the kids react to the programs. It’s reassuring that the kids are reading and enjoying the books.”

Voelker chooses books written in a variety of styles that range from fiction to nonfiction to classics. In the weeks to come, there will be visits from Newbery Award-winning author Sharon Creech, illustrator Eric Rohmann, musicians, actors and even conservationists.

“Often I choose the book because I thought of the program first,” Voelker said.

New this year is the introduction of the medallion awarded to young readers who read 16 books from the program’s historic list — one must be Jeffrey Simpson’s Chautauqua: An American Utopia. The award is made possible by the support of the John Bliss Memorial Fund with the hope that children will go above and beyond the required reading list.

“It’s so important to give kids the opportunity to read good books,” said Terrie Hauck, who established the medallion program to memorialize her son, John Bliss, who died unexpectedly last year.

“John always loved books, and he always loved kids,” Hauck said. “So the medallion program just felt right.”

Hauck’s 12-year-old granddaughter, Sarah Vest, will receive the first Young Readers medallion this Tuesday at 1 p.m. during a ceremony at the CLSC Veranda.

While all nine books in the series are aimed at young readers, people from all ages are welcome to join the discussions. It is a chance for readers to see their favorite books come to life and to be inspired by storytelling.

“There are some constants in kids’ lives,” Voelker said, “and one of them is to be exposed to good reading.”


  • Week One: June 29
    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    Bring a friend as we talk about the relationships that have made us stronger, just like the irreplaceable friendships between Grahame’s classic countryside critters.
  • Week Two: July 6
    The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
    4:15 p.m. Hurlbut Church, Sanctuary
    Join Newbery Award-winning author Sharon Creech as she tells of her inspiration for this story about a friendship between an American girl and an ‘unfinished angel’ living in the Swiss Alps.
  • Week Three: July 13
    The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    Chautauquan poets relate to the story of a young boy who follows his passion to become the great Chilean poet, Pablo Naruda.
  • Week Four: July 20
    Sparky by Beverly Gherman
    4:15 p.m. Turner, Conference Room
    Illustrator Eric Rohmann shares what it’s like to tell a story with pictures just like Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip.
  • Week Five: July 27
    Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    Hear the music in this picture book come to life as musicians play the sounds of a 1940s jazz band.
  • Week Six: August 3
    King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
    4:15 p.m. Hurlbut Church, Sanctuary
    ‘The play is the thing’ this week as members of the Chautauqua Theater Company perform the genius of Shakespeare to accompany a book about history and time travel.
  • Week Seven: August 10
    Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    Three friends unite to save a Redwood forest from destruction as a real forester, Lori Brockelbank, visits to talk about sustainable forest management.
  • Week Eight: August 17
    The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    A fairy loses her wings but not her magic, and it is up to the garden creatures to help her get them back. Join Mark Baldwin from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute as we celebrate the wonders of the natural world.
  • Week Nine: August 28
    The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
    4:15 p.m. Alumni Hall, Garden Room
    It’s Civil War week at Chautauqua as the unlikely hero, Homer P. Figg, tries to save his brother from illegal conscription to the Union Army. This week’s speakers join us to talk about the Underground Railroad.