Much has changed for children since the pandemic began to affect the Keys in mid-March. Schools turned to virtual instruction for the rest of the school year. Camps either canceled or limited the number of participants.

And while libraries locally and nationally have felt the effects, many are finding alternative virtual ways to keep kids amused. Take the Islamorada library. Throughout the pandemic, library assistant Charlotte Caria, who heads youth services, takes to the screen twice a week with a smile and costume for story time. She even uses those funny filters, which just about every application has these days, to entertain the little tykes at home. 

“I get kind of goofy and fun with it,” she said. “I have a theme of pink, rainbows and bubbles and puppets. I really try to be dynamic in my story times. I’m not just sitting there and reading a book, although that can be a comfort in itself.”

Caria usually pushes the messages of “read, read, read” through an eight-week summer reading program. Now, she’s pushing to provide more hands-on activities children can do from their homes. 

Islamorada Library Assistant Charlotte Caria, who heads youth services, hosts storytime twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays via Facebook. Not only is she reading books to children at home on their screens, but she’s also playing music and bringing on guests. CONTRIBUTED

As Caria and parents have noticed, children are tiring of virtual programming and losing focus. With three upcoming online celebrations, however, Caria and the library are bringing gobs of laid-back fun in the way of games, crafts, challenges, prizes and sudden surprises. Starting Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m., children and families will be able to stop by the library to pick up craft kits, supplies and an activities list.

Caria said there’s a whole host of activities for children. Some include making a color chalk drawing on the Islamorada library sidewalk, creating a superhero outfit from a kit provided by the library, attending an online trivia game, completing a superhero word puzzle from a kit provided and reading for an hour. Those who complete the activities will obtain raffle tickets for the chance to win prizes. 

“I want to keep it fun, fun, fun,” she said. “As my boss said, it’s all the cake and not the vegetables because the parents have such a hard time with home-schooling, and all the pressure is on them to make sure their kids study. I really just wanted this mini summer reading season to be light and fun.” 

On Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m., Caria will DJ family-friendly tunes, play with bubbles and answer questions on Zoom. On Saturday, Aug. 1 at 2 p.m., registrants can attend a kids trivia game with prizes for the top three winners on Crowd.Live. On Saturday, Aug. 8, the library will host a Zoom gathering with raffle ticket drawings for a cigar-box blues guitar, waterproof camera, robot-building and marble-maze kits and an electronic drawing pad. 

Caria said she thoroughly enjoys displaying her sense of humor through online story time while discovering new virtual programs to provide for the community. 

“That has been really fun … so fun,” she said.

Those interested in registering for the events can email Caria at [email protected] or by calling 305-664-4645. More information is at Islamorada Library — Helen Wadley Branch on Facebook. Islamorada Library is located at 81830 Overseas Highway.

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX