Children invited to explore weekly themes through Young Readers program

Marley Parish
Emma Francois

This summer the youngest Chautauquans will explore the weekly themes through a carefully selected reading list and accompanying activities in the CLSC Young Readers program.

At 4:15 p.m. every Wednesday, children from Chautauqua County and the Institution are invited into the larger discussions the adults are having. The hour-long event will typically be split between a 15-minute discussion and a 45-minute activity.

“The program is designed with a great deal of respect for these children as readers in a greater community,” said Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services. “Discussing the book itself is a core aspect, but also a jumping-off point for larger discussions.”

As opposed to a classroom setting that may discourage kinesthetic learners from reading, the program’s hands-on activities keep the educational experience enjoyable. Taking advantage of the culture resources at the Institution, Ewalt said the events tie together the themes, stories and lessons in a lively way.

Ewalt said it’s also an opportunity for departments that typically attract a more mature audience, such as Chautauqua Theater Company and the Chautauqua Opera Company, to engage with young Chautauquans and expose them to new artforms.

Activities young Chautauquans can look forward to this summer are a discussion led by two of the co-authors of Out of Wonder in Week Two and a tour of The Chautauquan Daily newsroom — with a chance to write letters to the editor that may appear in the Daily — during Week Eight.

The program targets youth ages 9-14, but welcomes those a little older or younger, too.

Even the adults get excited, though Ewalt noted the discussion and activities are exclusively for the youth.

“Plenty of grandparents and parents (come) who may be fans themselves,” said Ewalt. “It’s satisfying to talk to Chautauquans of all ages off-season who find out the (CLSC Young Readers) selections and are huge fans of the books.”

Karen Schiavone, Special Studies and youth programs associate, said she chooses books children may not be exposed to in their Common Core curriculum. Other criteria Schiavone looks for are books that relate to the weekly themes and are not part of a series.

To further encourage reading among youth, the Young Readers program has the Medallion Award. Similar to the CLSC program for adults, if young readers read 16 books from the program’s historic list, including Jeffrey Simpson’s Chautauqua: An American Utopia, they can fill out a card and be presented their Medallion Award.

“One of the best opportunities we have is to give kids an opportunity to talk about topics by making a book accessible to them,” Schiavone said.

Most importantly, though, the program strives to find books that are fun for the young readers.

“I just hope the kids have a good time,” Schiavone said. “As long as they’re smiling, it makes it all worth it.”

Tags : CLSC Young Readers programliterary artsMatt Ewalt

The author Rebecca Klar

Rebecca Klar is a recent graduate of Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric. She is excited to be spending her first summer at Chautauqua as a School of Music reporter for The Chautauquan Daily. You can contact her at