Last summer, I sort of found myself in charge of a Summer Reading Program at the last minute. It didn’t go so well, as you might imagine. We had great summer learning events, but not a lot of participation in traditional, tracked summer reading.
Since then, I’ve started a new job at a new library, and we’re running a short, low-key winter reading program during the month of January. Originally, it was just a youth services thing, but the adult services department has gotten on board too, making for a great full-library event.
For youth services, we’ve divided up participation into a few categories: Pre-K, K-5, Middle Grade (vaguely grades 5-7), and Teen (vaguely grades 6-12). Obviously, there’s overlap because of the creation of the Middle Grade category. We’ve had success with the creation of a Middle Grade collection and program set, so why not extend it to the reading club? Kids in this age group can choose whether to participate in Kids or Middle Grade (for the 5th and 6th graders) and Teen or Middle Grade (for the 6th & 7th graders). It’s not really about forcing certain categories – it’s more about encouraging kids to read at the age group they enjoy.
Each child/teen gets a welcome bag at registration with a pencil and such – teens have different bags than the kids. Then they take a bingo sheet to fill out. Each space is a type of book to read, and they try to create a bingo of any kind on the card. When they bring it back, they get a ticket for a raffle at the end of the month. There are 4 baskets, each with a target age, although participants can choose any raffle to enter.
Example of a Kids Bingo Sheet:
It’s low key enough to work during a really busy programming season, and it also has pretty low barriers to participation.
This program is exciting to me for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the tension between traditional summer reading proponents and advocates of other ways of directing and tracking summer learning. This kind of program – super easy to run and participate in – allows people for whom reading clubs are important parts of the library world to get that fix. And it also frees up staff time to develop other facets of summer learning at the library.
Remind me that I talked about all the “free time” this program leaves me toward the end of this month.