Wintertime programming provides festive fun at KDL

Cold, wintry climates often mean many Michiganders are spending more time indoors. Escaping the bitter temperatures, and venturing inside to your local library can make for a cozy escape. The Kent District Library (KDL) provides a plethora of winter programming for children, teens and adults. With festive fun events, winter reading programs and special events, KDL has something for everyone year-round, indoors and out. 

Hennie Vaandrager, programming manager, works with staff at KDL’s 20 branches, and helps plan events across the Library network. One of the most popular winter programs, the Ready for Reindeer program, has been going on for a couple years, Vaandrager says. 

One of the most popular winter programs at Kent District Library is the Ready for Reindeer program.

“The reindeer are visiting 13 of our branches in December,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to see these beautiful animals up close. This is an outdoor program, so dress warm!”

Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farms, based in Clare, has been operating since 1991. The farm’s animals, including reindeer, alpacas and bison, visit out-of-town locations for special events at schools and libraries. Throughout the month, they’ll be stopping at different branches including Alto Branch (10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17), Byron Township Branch (4 to 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19 ), East Grand Rapids Branch (6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19), Walker Branch (11 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Dec. 20) and Wyoming Branch (2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20). 

The Grand Rapids community can get another opportunity to mingle with some furry friends this season too, with the ‘Meet the Sled Dogs’ program. 
Sled dogs will visit a number of Kent District Library branches this winter.

“Come meet the sled dogs from the Tun-Dra Kennels and their owners at 11 of our branches over the next few months,” Vaandrager says. “Ask questions about the mushing, the Iditarod and more.” 
As this is also an outdoor event, Vaandrager encourages people to plan their wardrobe accordingly.
Meet the Sled Dogs will be at the Plainfield Township Branch 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28.
For those looking for indoor activities for youngsters, KDL hosts SnowFest Craft Time, providing engaging activities and crafts to celebrate the winter season. SnowFest Craft Time takes place at the  Alto Branch (10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 19), the Lowell Branch (10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22) and the Walker Branch (1 to 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29).
Families can create special crafts and edible masterpieces with the Gingerbread Lane program at KDL.
“Sugar is in the air with our Gingerbread Lane program,” Vaandrager says. Many branches throughout the month of December are inviting families to craft gingerbread houses using graham crackers, candies and sweet treats. 

“It is so much fun to see the fun creations that the little ones come up with,” she adds. 
Materials are provided, but space is limited, so participants are encouraged to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the event time to guarantee a spot. 
Gingerbread Lane takes place at Tyrone Township Branch (Friday, Dec. 16 from 1 to 2 p.m.), Nelson Township Branch (Saturday, Dec. 17 from 10 to 11 a.m.), Kentwood Branch (Tuesday, Dec. 20 from 10 to 11 a.m.), Byron Township Branch (Tuesday, Dec. 20 from 10 to 11 a.m.), Lowell Branch (Tuesday, Dec. 20 from 1 to 2 p.m.), and Grandville Branch (Wednesday, Dec. 21 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.)
Participants also get the opportunity to showcase their tasty works of art during the Byron Township Branch eighth annual Gingerbread House Contest. Entries are accepted in four separate categories — children 11 and younger; teens 12-17; adults and families; groups. Prizes will be awarded by popular vote and by judges’ choice. Entries are accepted through Dec. 17. 
While students are on winter break, many families visit their local library for both education and entertainment. Vaandrager encourages parents to visit the KDL website to see what events local branches are hosting.
The Wyoming and Kentwood branches are having a Coders4Tomorrow coding class Tuesday, Dec. 27 and Thursday, Dec. 29, for students in grades 4-8, she says. Another family-friendly indoor event is Loose Parts Play for young children ages 0-5, taking place at the East Grand Rapids branch. For Vaandrager, the benefits of these programs are clear.
“Give your young child’s imagination room to grow through open-ended play with a variety of manipulative materials, ” she says.
Seniors are welcome to participate in a little spelling fun with a classic, unplugged game — Scrabble. Scrabble for Seniors takes place at Alto Branch twice a month on Fridays from 1 to 2 p.m. throughout January and February. If aging adults are looking to exercise more than just their minds, KDL hosts Enhance Fitness classes. These twice-weekly, drop-in classes focus on strength, balance, conditioning, flexibility and fun. 
With a brand-new year right around the corner, KDL also has events to help celebrate that too, with Happy Noon Year.
“It is an awesome opportunity to celebrate the new year with young ones in your life,” Vaandrager says. “We’re giving kids an exciting way to ring in the new year with a countdown, noisemakers, crafts and fun — at an hour that won’t keep them up way past their bedtimes; it is a party for the littles in your life.”
Countdown to Happy Noon Year takes place beginning Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at the Comstock Park Branch. Events will also be held at other branch locations including Ada, Tyrone Township and Walker throughout the new year’s weekend. Additional details can be found here. 
The start of a new year also brings the return of KDL’s Early Childhood Essential classes.
“While open to everyone, these classes provide an opportunity for day care providers to get required professional development credit,” Vaandrager says. 
The Library partners with Great Start to Quality for the classes.
Adult programming continues into 2023 as well, with KDL kicking off its annual teen/adult reading contest, Let it Snow, on Jan. 3. Participants who read or listen to six audiobooks from the Let it Snow categories between Jan. 3 and March 31 can earn a free mug. 
Vaandrager says there is even more adult programming planned for 2023, with book sales, book discussions, special guest speakers and author talks
“Some of the adult presenters coming early in the new year cover topics like guided painting, home brewing, home organization and history about the Underground Railroad,” she says. 

The full listing of Library events can be found here. 

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library. 

Sarah briefly lived in Grand Rapids years ago, before moving back to Lansing, but that West Michigan love never really left her heart. Through her coverage on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, and anything mitten-made, she’s committed to convincing any and everyone — just how great the Great Lakes state is. Sarah received her degrees in journalism and professional communications. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected].
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