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The Clarksdale Library: Summertime is Reading Time!

The Clarksdale Library: Summertime is Reading Time!
By: Elizabeth A. Phelps

Clarksdale Carnegie Public Library is the place to take your children this summer. If you go, be sure to find Mary Jenkins, Children’s Librarian. You will be inspired, uplifted, and pray that your community creates a similar atmosphere to support children and youth. 

Andrew Carnegie supplied the money to start the Clarksdale Carnegie Public Library in 1914, and according to Jenkins, “We have tried to live up to his dream for the Delta.”   

Mary is so exuberant over the success of the library’s programs, you may have to ask her to slow down so you can catch it all. 

“We are so fortunate,” she said. “We check out more books than we did in 1986 even though our town’s population has decreased!”   

Most folks know the importance of developing a love of reading. Reading provides a foundation for developing solution-finding and life skills. If kids are allowed to have fun reading, they also experience joy and develop powerful imaginations.  

As educators, teachers hope children will retain skills during the summer. But sometimes, due to the way education is now structured, today’s schools often make reading all about standardized test scores. However much they want to, it’s more and more difficult for teachers to make it purely about joyful reading. 

Summer library programs come to the rescue. It is there that children can have so much fun, they don’t even know they are learning to read, or gathering other skills. 

The library is full of fascinating choices for children. In terms of partners, Clarksdale has created a notable team. That team includes NASA. 

“We do a lot of STEM work with NASA through a grant, and Starnet has put together a group of 75 libraries across the nation. We’re one of them,” Jenkins explained.

“They provide kits, virtual reality camps, and experiments,” she said. “The kids even get to see space rocks.”

According to Jenkins, “our library works directly with schools, and unemployment and high school dropout rates have lowered over the past years as a result of the community working together.” 

Youth organizations such as Griot — an African term pertaining to storytellers, poets and performers — provide excursions into music and dance. Another group, Spring Initiative, takes children from the time they are born, walks with them through their childhood, and helps them shop for colleges. 

“These children have something to look forward to and don’t feel overwhelmed because they have the support they need,”  Jenkins said. The library provides so many programs through the teamwork of community organizations, it’s impossible to list them all.  

Clearly, the library allows children choices and the freedom to learn in a fun, relaxed environment. It’s the type of learning that takes a child who comes to the library just to use the internet and eventually leads him or her to explore robots and chess lessons. And it’s free! 

From books to performances, the Clarkdale Carnegie Library is one adventurous place to be. Make a visit; Mary Jenkins will be waiting for you!  

The Clarksdale Carnegie Public Library offers books, entertainment, games, science fairs, crafts, prizes, theme-oriented mini-summer camps, storytellers, movies and more. It is located at 114 Delta Ave., Clarksdale. Find out more by calling (662) 624-4461 or visiting

Elizabeth A. Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.

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