Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Summer Learning with your National Parks

We all love our national parks, right? But we may not always think about the U.S. National Park Service as a library partner given the indoor/outdoor aspect of libraries/parks. That was the case for San Francisco Public Library until an intern — who also was working for the Golden Gate National Parks — tipped us off about the National Park Service Centennial. Just goes to show that you never the source of your next inspiration! We’re now half-way through Summer Stride, San Francisco Public Library’s summer learning program, and we’re thrilled about the opportunities that this new partnership has lent to San Francisco families of children of all ages. Here are some of the programmatic highlights:

Kick Off at Crissy Field

Reading Ranger Jamboree & Summer Stride Kick-off: We decided to align our Summer Learning Kick-off event with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s annual Reading Ranger Jamboree, which was a huge success. The children didn’t even seem to notice the fog, wind, and rain throughout the day as they made s’mores, hopped on and off the bookmobile, listened to a storytime of Leo: A Ghost Story with Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson (through another very special partnership with Chronicle Books), and sign up for Summer Stride.

Author Mac Barnett reads Leo: A Ghost Story with illustrator Christian Robinson on the SFPL Bookmobile
Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson read Leo: A Ghost Story published by Chronicle Books

Community shuttles from libraries to national parks: Nine shuttles are taking off from libraries through San Francisco to points near and (even a bit far) to explore national parks within our own city limits. For children raised in urban settings, this is an incredible opportunity to see a part of the city that they may have never visited. The National Park Service set up a registration page and almost all of our shuttles are sold out. The feedback has been great: on a recent shuttle ride, my colleague and parent commented on how smooth the on-boarding process was – and that was even with the boarding of 65 people, including 4 wheelchair users from an elder care center.

Storytelling ranger programs: Storytime with your local Park Ranger is apparently what it’s all about. This summer we’re hosting 28 park rangers to give storytelling programs at our Main Library and 27 branches. I had a chance to experience one of these programs and was astounded first and foremost by the storytelling craft of the Ranger Fatima. Through her expressions, tone, and enthusiasm, she brought Ohlone and Coastal Miwok American Indian folktales to life. Children learned by smelling, touching, and seeing examples of native flora and fauna.

Ranger Program at Richmond Branch Library, SFPL.


Little free libraries: The Golden Gate National Parks have installed little free libraries throughout their parks. Check out this sweet video about it.

We can’t wait to see and hear more stories about what our young patrons and their families experience as they create their adventures through reading tales or exploring trails throughout the rest of Summer Stride. If you’ve also had experience partnering with the National Park Service, I’d love to hear about your journey and discoveries!




Cristina Mitra is the Family Engagement Coordinator where she coordinates system-wide programming and partnerships for youth and their families at San Francisco Public Library and also a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She tweets occasionally @seemitra and may be contacted at cristina.mitra[at]

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