Librarian encourages reading with her artwork

Seeking to encourage children to read, Merry Shipley is bringing artistic visuals to Farragut branch of Knox County Public Libraries.

Shipley, assistant librarian 2, has decorated the library walls with her drawings depicting a theme for different events.

“Just to see (children) come in and see the wonder on their faces when they see the big animals, it just makes the heart so happy,” she said. “And any little bit of happiness during this crazy time, I think, is worth it.

“And if my drawings can bring that little bit of happiness during this crazy time, then I’ve done my job,” Shipley added.

However, the library has not been able to hold storytime since March 2020.

“We’ve been told it’s the fall” when the library may be able to ease back into story time, Shipley said. “Even though we’re not able to do story time right now, they can still come in.”

Among the children coming in to read Wednesday, July 21, were siblings, Macie, Ellie and Evan Martin, children of Jen and Scott Martin of Farragut.

“They always go to see what’s on the wall,” Jen Martin said. “We do everything in the library. We’re definitely regulars.

“This year, to promote the Read City Reading Challenge, which comes from (Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacob’s) office, we teamed up with their office,” Shipley said.

“This year’s theme is ‘Tales and Tails,’” she added. “Every three months we explore a different habitat with this reading challenge.”

Shipley said that challenge is to reach 1 million reading hours in a year. Children read books related to each of the habitats, such as East Tennessee habitat, and complete a field guide packet.

She explained the packets are broken up into each monthly habitat, and by the end of the period, if the children have accumulated 120 hours — 10 hours a month — they complete a habitat for that month. There are activities in the field guide to encourage the children to continue reading by making it more fun.

“If they read for 20 minutes a day, then they color a different paw print,” Shipley said, pointing out when they finish their paw prints for that month, they’ve completed a habitat.

When children complete the entire field guide, they get a prize.

“That’s a year-round challenge,” Shipley said. “Adults can do the challenge as well, to encourage adults to keep reading, too.”

She said before the mayor’s initiative started, Marilyn Jones, library manager, asked Shipley to create an art display on the animals’ habitats to help promote Read City and to get children involved.

“At the beginning, I didn’t know it was going to be a monthly thing, and now (reflecting) ‘this is a lot but I love it,’” Shipley said.

“I get paid to doodle and color and draw,” he added. “I get paid to be with the public and kids.”