It’s no secret that libraries have always been wonderful gathering places for folks of all ages within their communities. While everyone expects that they’ll offer not only the best books and, occasionally, even a few lectures or classes, did you know that some also host “Gaming Day” programs? Many of the rural libraries that we’ve reached out to have already set aside a specific time of the week to provide board games for their patrons in order to foster a little friendly competition among both old and young, alike. Now, they’re upping the ante by adding chess to the mix.
While plenty of games offer a brain boost, chess is different. It’s an “activity that has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and academic performance as well as being fun,” writes a 32-year veteran elementary school teacher and librarian in rural N.C. “Playing chess gives your brain a workout and develops beneficial skills, such as problem solving, strategic thinking, and concentration that spill over into other intellectual pursuits,” says a librarian who is constantly on the look-out for personal enrichment activities for members of the community. Even though some have admitted to being a bit intimidated by the game, they are willing to learn by going through the workbooks we provide in order to instruct their patrons. After that, they can all continue learning together.
One of the most common reasons these librarians want to start a club is their desire to bring an intergenerational community together. The relationships that are sure to develop between players of different ages will strengthen community ties. While it can be a challenge to find activities that appeal to such a broad age range, chess can close that gap. It’s a game for the ages, because it’s a game for all ages. A few of the librarians who reached out to us have plans to contact their local high school chess clubs for ideas, instruction, and inspiration, while others will leverage the partnerships they have with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and their local homeschool association. As one woman wrote, “Libraries are well positioned to promote the Game Changer Program.”