May 18, 2013

Library Summer Reading: What do YOU like?

Summer Reading Season is almost here!  I've checked out a lot of library summer reading programs over the years, and I wanted to get your opinions regarding these programs: whether you've ever taken part in one, what your favorite parts are--and your fantasies of a "perfect" library summer reading program.

I was surprised to learn that library summer reading programs of one kind or another have been with us for well over a hundred years.  I wasn't around back then, but I think it's safe to say summer at the library has changed quite a bit over the years!  Summer programs' goals of preventing summer learning loss, encouraging the joy of reading, and helping fill those long hours take many forms--and these days, many libraries include adults in the summer reading fun, as well.  I think that's a vital component: if the adults don't model a love of reading, the kids are less likely to follow suit.

The core of a summer reading program is a reading log and a prize.  Libraries vary in how they measure what is read: books, pages, time spent reading.  The culminating prize--and my favorite--at most libraries seems to be a book.  How great to get a congratulations from the librarian, and then get to explore the available books on the cart--and pick one to take home "for keeps!"  For me, it's the one prize that makes perfect sense.  Give me a dinner on the town, sure; a trip to Borneo, yes, please--but definitely give me my choice of a book for finishing the reading game!

Of course, prizes depend upon a library's budget, and library budgets (many of them) have fallen upon hard times.  Donations from local vendors makes up much in the way of prizes for some programs: pizzas, burgers, etc.  A library might throw down for some little trinkets along the way, many purchased from party catalogs or from the same organization from which they purchased their annual theme (the themes you'll see at most libraries this year are "Dig into Reading," or "Reading is So Delicious").  Libraries with a budget can actually go shopping.  They can decide what their communities would love, without having to fully rely upon what might be donated to them from a business interest.

Okay, so reading & prizes.  But wait, there's more!  Storytimes, of course, plus crafts, and special events.  Some libraries will show movies, and many have performers and presenters.  During many summer reading programs, you can see more assemblies than children do in multiple school years: animal presentations, storytellers, puppet shows, music programs, cultural presentations, magic shows--most with elements designed to address common core state standards in education.

Sad to say, not all libraries can afford this multitude of special events.  Some do not even have the budget for a single full-priced event.  Spend enough time online exploring various libraries' event offerings, and you will discover that some libraries actually have "The Hamburger Clown" as their special performer. You know who I mean.  He might read to the kids, do a trick, give a prize--his people say he supports literacy, but... well, you fill in the blanks, there.

A lucky library is one that can depend upon its Friends.  The Friends of the Library (some libraries are lucky enough to have more than one support group, such as a Library Foundation), through memberships, book sales, and other fundraising activities, keep their communities afloat in tough times.  A library might survive without its Friends--but it wouldn't be pretty.  During most events at the library, you'll hear the facilitator thanking the Friends group, because they are the source of funds for those wonderful, fun & educational programs I mentioned earlier.

In my desire to give a few examples, and a little context, I drifted from what I told you I wanted to do here: to get your opinions regarding library summer reading programs!

Have you sampled Summer Reading Games at various libraries?  What do you like best?  What do you like least?  If YOU were to design a library summer reading program, what would it look like?  I'm interested in hearing about your dream program at the library--and how you think it could happen.  

Please, chime in!

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