Services for

Storytimes, afterschool art, Lego construction, Summer Reading, free lunches, gardening projects, holiday festivities, multicultural performances… these are just some of the ways OPL’s Children’s Services Department creates a lively, stimulating, and educational atmosphere that keeps kids returning to the Library. Literacy is a big part of it, but kids have all kinds of needs and the Library addresses them in a variety of ways.

The Summer Reading Program, promoting reading and library use while school is out during the summer months, was as popular as ever in 2013. Over 9,000 kids signed up for this year’s program, and two-thirds of them completed eight hours of reading, far more than in previous years. Fun and educational events, reading games, and the allure of prizes (an iPad and a coveted annual pass to Children’s Fairyland) attracted young readers to all of the branches. So it goes without saying that the Summer Reading Program was a huge success – with thanks to support from the Friends of the Oakland Public Library and other generous funders.

In an unusual spin, the West Oakland Branch kicked off the Summer Reading Program with “Bikes, Bubbles, and Books,” an all-day, all-ages event that included a group bike ride, bicycle repair workshops, and crafts led by the Original Scraper Bike Team, who showed kids how to decorate their spokes in the trademark “Scraper Bike” style. The event attracted kids from East Oakland as well as the West Side, thanks to the bike theme and the mobility it suggested.

The Main Library’s Children’s Room, in partnership with Acta Non Verba, offered the Growing Readers garden program, a series of weekly workshops for children and their families. The project was supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. Topics included soil, bugs, and how fruits and vegetables differ. As spring turned to summer, patrons of all ages enjoyed observing the growth of corn, basil, strawberries, squash, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables outside the Children’s Room. Also as part of this program, an assortment of gardening books was added to the Children’s Room collection.

During National Library Week, in April 2013, the east face of the Main Library was graced with a temporary installation. It became known as the “Origami READ Wall,” because it consisted of large, colorful letters spelling the word “READ.” As an up-close look revealed, the letters were formed by hundreds of little origami pieces, each hand-folded by kids from throughout Oakland.


The Free Summer Lunch Program, brought about through a partnership with the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the City of Oakland Department of Human Services, began its third year at the Library in June 2013. The program has been so successful, a number of other library systems in California have modeled new programs on OPL’s. Over 8,500 lunches were served at 11 Library locations in the summer of 2013.

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Find out more on the Oakland Reads 2020 Website

A number of programs were offered either weekly or with some frequency, such as Afterschool Art classes with staff from the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA); Lego Mania, which gave kids a chance to create their own Lego structures with the Library’s supply of literally thousands of pieces; and MPACT Dance Classes for Kids, presented by the Luna Dance Institute at several branches. Children’s book, clothing, and toy swaps took place at various Library locations throughout the year to help promote the reuse of under-used resources as well as community building.

There can never be enough art for kids, and for added inspiration, it doesn’t hurt to throw prizes into the deal. In October 2012, the Library helped kids participate in the

City of Oakland’s Re-Create Art Contest, a competition that challenges K-12 students to produce stellar recycled art. Some $500 worth in prizes were earned by creative young people. Several branches also offered art classes for Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

Thanks to partnerships with educational and cultural institutions from around the Bay, the Library was able to provide many unique and enlightening programs for kids. The California Academy of Sciences offered educational programs in September 2012. The Museum of Craft and Folk Art showed kids how to make Incan and Miwok crafts to honor Native American History Month in November. That same month, the Medicine Warrior Dance Troupe performed for kids at several branches.

Singer-songwriter José-Luis Orozco gave two performances in December. He sang family-friendly songs that he wrote to pass along Latin America’s rich heritage to youngsters.

African American History Month (February) was marked at several locations with stirring performances by Bodac Cultural, an ensemble that displays the vibrant music and dance of West Africa. Also in February, the Jing Mo Athletic Association performed an impressive feat, ringing in the Chinese Year of the Snake with a “Snake” dance at five library branches in five hours – yes, all in one day!

In April and May, Día events were celebrated at ten locations with rollicking bilingual performances by Germar the Magician, and free books were given to more than 600 children who attended Día events.

The Oakland Public Library’s Children’s Services Department also frequently provides parenting advice workshops, usually in partnership with outside organizations and specialists. In April and May, OPL joined forces with Bananas to offer a variety of classes for parents of newborns at five library locations. The courses included topics such as child-parent yoga, sleep issues, and baby massage.