Summer Reading Activities

WEEK 7 – Mail/Letters

Activities for Youth, Teens and Adults

Do: WRITE A LETTER to a friend or relative. Not an e-mail. An actual letter in an envelope. It’s a lost art, and it’ll make the day of whomever receives it. If your child is too young to write by themselves, have them dictate a letter and then let them sign it (if they are able to write their own name) or “sign it” with a scribble.

Do: DECORATED ENVELOPES ALL AGES  Take the letter an extra step and make the envelope truly memorable! Personalize the envelope for the person you’re sending it to. Use colored pencils or markers, use stamps and ink pads, colorful stickers, or firmly glue pictures from a magazine or newspaper, but nothing dimensional or puffy.

Just be sure there’s white space behind the address and around the stamp. (The Postal Service says: “You may use colored cards and envelopes for mailing (as well as different ink colors) if there is no interference with the reading of the information or postmark. First and foremost, the mailing recipient’s information should be clear and legible. The color contrast between the written information and the mail piece background must be kept at a reasonable degree. A brilliant colored background or reverse (white on dark) printing is not permitted.) It might be helpful to write your stamp and recipient address first. Or write the recipient and return addresses on adhesive labels to place once the artwork is finished.

Variation—Postcards or Greeting Cards: Use a blank piece of heavy cardstock to make a postcard (4” x 6” and 5” x 7” are common sizes for postcards. You can check maximum and minimum sizes at Leave the address side white, but go crazy on the back.

Do: SEND LETTERS OR CARDS TO NURSING HOMES OR SOLDIERS Once you’ve sent letters to friends or relatives, share some correspondence with someone you don’t know. Contact a local nursing home and ask if they are accepting cards and letters for residents (with COVID-19 restrictions, they might not be, or they might require special handling).

While the post office will not deliver mail to the military without a specific recipient, you can send a letter to be distributed to soldiers who may not get a lot of mail through a number of charitable organizations. Some are not accepting letters during this time, but here are two whose websites indicate that they are still accepting letters for soldiers.

Note that on these websites (and elsewhere on the internet) you can find guidelines and suggestions for what you should and shouldn’t write to a soldier. In any case, when writing to a soldier or to someone in a nursing home, you should be upbeat and avoid sad or controversial topics, talk about yourself and your life in a general way, but don’t include information that might be personally identifying (it’s OK to sign your name). Don’t expect that you will get a reply, since your recipient’s circumstances may not allow for it.

Do: WRITE AN EPISTOLARY STORY  What is an epistolary story you may ask? It is a story that is told through letters. A number of books have been written by two writers. Before you start, discuss ideas for your characters and how they might be related. Are they literal relatives/family? Friends? Schoolmates? Strangers? Once you have your characters, you’ll want to decide why they are writing to each other, and the setting? Is it contemporary times and the conversation is by e-mail or text? By Snapchat? (You can actually use those forms to write your story, or you can just exchange pages as if you were using electronic communication.) Decide on a general idea of what the story will be about, and maybe how long you want your story to be (or if you want to leave it open-ended!). Then decide who will write the first letter to start the action. Of course, you want to progress the plot little by little and leave room for the other writer to find some surprises.

UNDERGROUND ADVENTURES with FOREST PARK NATURE CENTER Calling all nature explorers! We are pleased to introduce Forest Park Nature Center’s Summer Library program. Join Princeton Public Library and FPNC as we explore the natural resources of Central Illinois and, with the help of other local libraries, foster learning through those natural resources. Be sure to check out Underground Adventures on YouTube!

Join us LIVE on the Forest Park Nature Center Facebook Page on Thursday, July 23, at 5 pm for a Q&A session to answer any questions you may have about life underground – plus, meet a bonus animal not featured in the Underground Adventures virtual program! (Be entered to win an FPNC Family Membership by participating !)

Play: Get moving, Underground style! Wiggle like a worm, hop like a bunny, crawl like a spider, dig like a mole … What else can you come up with?

Tunnel Visioning! The underground colonies of ants and moles feature different tunnels and ‘rooms’! Use cardboard boxes to make a tunnel of your own (kid-size for you and some friends or toy-size for some toy animals—or make a marble run!

Do: Build a terrarium and watch life beneath the soil with your own eyes! For an example and some tips visit:

Explore: Want to learn more about fossils?
Click Here →

Explore: Want to go on a day trip to visit nature?
Visit for up-to-date details about the Forest Park Nature Center and other Peoria Park District facility closures and openings.

Stop into the Princeton Public Library this week for sidewalk chalk and wooden clothespins to make Clothespin Friends.

Magic and Art Show by Dan Gogh (Dan Laib) – Watch Now!

Have you ever dreamed of visiting magical places? Wondered what it would be like to live in a fairy tale? Pretended that you had superpowers? Entertainer Dan Gogh will be your guide using puppets, magic, and art to explore the depths of your imagination. We’ll follow the trail of a pesky gopher and learn about the 3 “Cs” to creating a great story: Construction, Characters, and Creativity. Our adventure will end with finding the storytelling treasure! Come see the show and join us as we plunge deep into this journey of a lifetime! Support for this program was provided by the Arts of Starved Rock Country Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council

But Wait, There’s More from Dan Gogh!
Character Design Drawing Workshops:

Drawing Workshop 1, Drawing a Baby Character:

Drawing Workshop 2, Drawing a Villain Character:

Drawing Workshop 3, Drawing a Hero Character:

Tuesday, July 21, 6:30 pm

A live Zoom presentation by Zach Nissen. Zach is an alumnus of Princeton High School and a PhD candidate in Athropology at Northwestern University. Zach discusses archaeology as a subfield of anthropology and gives an overview of his field research at the ancient Mayan site of Aventure in northern Belize. This program is intended for teens and adults. CLICK HERE FOR ARCHIVED RECORDING!

SUE, THEN AND NOW: The Story of the Most Complete Tyrannosaurus
Friday, July 17, 1:00 pm

A live Zoom talk for families and children with Bill Simpson, Head of Geological Collections; Collections Manager, Fossil Vertebrates, Field Museum, Chicago. CLICK HERE FOR ARCHIVED RECORDING!

WEEK 5 – STORIES Stop into the Princeton Public Library this week for a blank comic book that you can use to create your own!

Activities for Youth

Do: MY PLACE IN THE WORLD Help your child understand relationships between herself and her world with this fun craft.

Do: STORY DICTATION Help your pre-reader develop vocabulary and understand the idea of story structure by letting them dictate a story to you. If you want to go further, after the story has been written down, ask your child to illustrate scenes from the story to create their own picture book.

Do: TELL THE STORY WITH A WORDLESS PICTURE BOOK (Comprehension, story structure, and visual literacy) Wordless picture books take the pressure off beginning readers, but encourages them to use illustrations, context, and their own knowledge of the world to create a story. Subsequent retellings can add different twists or new levels of understanding. Download this list of wordless picture books in PPL’s collection.

Activities for Youth, Teens and Adults

CREATE YOUR OWN COMIC BOOK This week, we are providing a blank comic book to get you started, but you can make your own. Look at some comic books and graphic novels to see how different creators break up the space. VARIATION: CREATE A PHOTO-NOVELLA (comic-book style story illustrated by photos) write out your story, divided in to scenes. Have friends or family members act out the story as you photograph. If you have publishing software, you can place the photos and include dialogue. Or you can print the photos and paste them down, adding voice bubbles, etc. Share your photo-novella (all of it or just a page or two)! Send your photos to and we will post them on the Princeton Public Library Facebook page.

STORY PROMPT Write a story based on a famous work of art or photograph. For more fun, do this as a group (friends or family)—work from a single image or have each member select an image—and share your stories by reading them aloud.


SPLAT or SCRIBBLE ART – With or without a partner, create a splat with wet paint or a loose scribble shape with pencil or crayon, and then turn the splat/scribble into


Activities for Youth, Teens and Adults

Do: BOOKMARK MONSTER  AGES 6 AND UP (motor skills, literacy)  Watch Mr. Ron make a bookmark monster!

Do: Recreate a well-known book cover in a photograph, using household odds & ends (and household members), or design a new cover for a favorite book. Send a photo of your cover to and we will post them on the Princeton Public Library Facebook page.

Do: It’s hot out – spend some time inside organizing your books (and dust the shelves while you’re at it!) How to organize? That’s up to you! Alphabetically by author? by genre? by title? by subject? chronologically by when you first read them? By color? Create a dedicated TBR (“to be read”) shelf so you don’t have to search the next time you are ready to start a new book.

Activities for Teens and Adults

Do: Start an account on Goodreads is a social cataloging website that allows individuals to search freely its database of books, annotations, quotes, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. (You must be at least 13 years of age to use Goodreads). Goodreads allows users to

  • Track the books you’re reading, have read, and want to read.
  • See what books other friends on Goodreads are reading.
  • Check out personalized book recommendations, tailored to your literary tastes.
  • Find out if a book is a good fit for you from other readers’ reviews; post reviews of your own.
  • See booklists created by other users; create your own booklists.
  • Read featured author interviews.
  • Enter raffles for e-book and print book giveaways.

Do: Discover new authors by playing with Type in an author’s name, and Literature-Map will generate a cloud of other authors whom contributors feel are similar; the more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map.

Stop into the Princeton Public Library this week for sidewalk chalk and wooden clothespins to make Clothespin Friends.

Activities for Youth and Teens

Nature Bingo Cards (nature activity) (ALL AGES) from Mass Audubon (Massachusetts Audubon Society)

Rainbow Nature Hunt (art/nature activity) (ALL AGES)

Do: TWIG LETTERS  ALL AGES (letter recognition and motor skills) Pick up fallen twigs and sticks (Please do not break off twigs from live trees unless you are intentionally trimming or pruning with permission!) Tie them into letter shapes with twine, thread, or string—spell out your name or a message to hang on a wall or display on a shelf.

Do: CLOTHESPIN FRIENDS  AGES 6 AND UP (motor skills, pretend play) 

Do: GIANT BUBBLE MAKER ALL AGES (parental help for younger children)

Play: SMALL HOUSES (motor skills, pretend play) Create a tiny house or nest for a fairy or other creature in your yard. Use sticks, rocks, leaves, flowers (ask permission to pick!), dirt,mud, or sand. You can invite fairy garden figures, action figures, or toy animals to stay in your house, or make new friends from Fimo, air-dry clay, clothespins, or by gluing a drawing onto several layers of cardboard.

Play: SIDEWALK CHALK (ALL AGES motor skills, balance)
Write encouraging messages for passers-by on your sidewalk or driveway.
Leave a message on a friend’s sidewalk.

Explore: Science museums across the country are offering a slew of virtual activities and programs. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City presents a number of virtual field trips, including tours of outer space and a visit to its beloved butterfly conservatory. AMNH also has updated its website and app for kids, called OLogy, which features games, projects, and videos, and it includes sections on zoology and archeology. For dinosaur lovers, AMNH’s multimedia activities about the Tyrannosaurus rex are sure to be a hit.

The National History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) invites families to learn about crawly creatures in its new online exhibit, ”Spiky, Hairy, Shiny: Insects of L.A.” NHM virtual visitors can also explore videos of fascinating animals, such as a rattlesnake and a skink.


Activities for Youth and Teens

Play: Pretend to be dinosaurs (or another creature of your child’s choosing.) Pretend to eat leaves from plants and trees in your yard or on a neighborhood walk.

Do: Make a dinosaur diorama, built on a cardboard base or in a shoebox or other cardboard box. Populate it with dinosaur play figures if you have them, or make 2-dimensional figures with drawings or printouts of dinosaurs mounted onto cardboard or foamcore. Research what dinosaurs would have lived together in the same time and habitat, and what the habitat would have looked like. Brainstorm what you might find around the house to create landforms and foliage.

Watch: Prehistoric Road Trip with Emily Graslie, Field Museum’s Chief Curiosity Correspondent

National Geographic “Fossils 101”

Natural History Museum, London “How do dinosaur fossils form?”

PBS Eons “A Brief History of Geologic Time”

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