BEST1 LONGMONT, CO – JULY 14, 2020: Warren Wieck, 8, picks out books he plans to read this Summer at Longmont Estates Elementary School in Longmont. Skyler Seybols is helping on the left. St. Vrain’s Mobile Innovation Lab is going on tour this summer to hand out books to kids of all ages throughout our community. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Sofia Eidhammer browsed the books laid out on tables by reading level Tuesday at Longmont Estates Elementary School, picking a “Narnia” book, an Underground Railroad picture book and the graphic novel “Dog Man.”

The 8-year-old, an incoming third-grader at Longmont Estates, said she is most looking forward to trying the “Dog Man” book.

“I’m doing great in my reading,” she said, adding she was “definitely” planning to start on the book when she got home.

Her dad, Scott Spurgeon, said the new books should encourage Sofia to read more this summer, adding the whole family has probably spent too much time on screens or watching television shows because of coronavirus restrictions.

Though Sofia’s time on the computer is mainly for math, he said, “it doesn’t replace the calmness of her sitting and reading.”

Hazel Armstrong-Davis, 9, picks out books she plans to read this summer on Tuesday at Longmont Estates Elementary School in Longmont. Casandra Lee is helping on the left. St. Vrain’s Mobile Innovation Lab is going on tour this summer to hand out books to kids of all ages throughout the community. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

A steady stream of kids and parents, all wearing masks and using hand sanitizer before touching the books, came by the school on Tuesday for the book giveaway. The St. Vrain Valley School District is using its mobile Innovation Lab to bring books to students this summer and encourage reading.

The mobile lab is stopping at schools around the district this month. Longmont Estates was the lab’s third stop. At the stop last week at Thunder Valley K-8 in Frederick last week, students took home more than 300 books.

Students are encouraged to read and share a response about the book before passing it along to family or friends, with instructions and a QR code included on the back of each book. Students who share a response will be entered in a drawing for a Sphero Bolt.

Mobile lab Coordinator Colin Rickman said the district bought 3,000 new books through Scholastic for the summer giveaway, using $10,000 in grant money and donations.

While the mobile lab was intended to demonstrate and share the district’s educational technologies, he said, the switch to a bookmobile allows the program to follow coronavirus safety protocols — it’s tricky to sanitize all those devices and keyboards — while continuing to engage and support students.

“We’ve had to get creative,” he said. “This is a fun way to interact with people and still stay safe. We want kids to keep reading.”

Plus, he said, it has allowed school principals and other staff members to connect with families. Tuesday, Longmont Estates Principal Traci Haley chatted with students, asking them about their book choices and their summers.

As with the regular mobile lab program, the reading giveaway is staffed by St. Vrain high school students employed by the district.

“It’s a great way to still interact with the community,” said Skyler Seybold, an incoming junior at Longmont High School. “It’s been really fun for us. We still get to talk to kids without risking having anybody in the lab.”

Heather Brubaker, a teacher at Blue Mountain Elementary who lives in the neighborhood and has an incoming seventh-grade daughter at Westview Middle School, said she appreciated the district’s effort to support reading and the opportunity to pick out new books.

She and her daughter, Tara, have been reading books out loud to each other to pass the time and prefer paper over digital books.

“We have fun,” she said. “It’s a new tradition.”

The lab will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on the following dates and locations: Thursday at Sunset Middle School, 1300 S. Sunset St., Longmont; July 21 at Columbine Elementary, 111 Longs Peak Ave., Longmont; July 23 at Longs Peak Middle School, 1500 14th Ave., Longmont; July 28 at Mead High School, 12750 County Road 7; July 30, Erie Middle School 650 Main St.; and Aug. 4 at Stapp Toyota, 8019 Raspberry Way, Frederick.

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