Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter chills bring thoughts of summer reading programs

We need society, and we need solitude also, as we need summer and winter, day and night, exercise and rest.
--Philip Gilbert Hamerton


It's freezing outside.  Which means it is time to start planning the summer reading program.  This will be my fourteenth summer running the program, and I need to breathe some new life into it.  Switch things up a little bit, and hopefully attract some more kids.  

Attendence over the past few years has remained small.   Some kids grow out of the program, and few return to take their places.  I'm not great at promoting the summer reading program.  I've done it for so many years already, and have never really succeeded in drawing extra kids through the library door.  I would not make a great salesman.  So, we're doing some work to come up with new ideas.

In the past few years, I've started the summer reading program shortly after school gets out.  Bigger libraries do this with great success.  But, we aren't a bigger library.  With a town of less than 500 people, there aren't all that many kids, and right after school gets out is when there are a lot of other really great programs and activities for them.  Maybe that will help.  

For many years we've had a library store at the end of the program.  Each 15 minutes of reading equals one library dollar to spend at the store.  The kids love it, but it doesn't necessarily encourage six weeks of reading.  Many of them cram some book reading into the last week of the program.  This year we're thinking about giving the kids prizes at each level of reading met.  Read for two hours, you get a prize.  Continue reading for another two and you get another.  We're also toying with the idea of getting credit for attending story hour and credit for bringing in the book logs and getting them stamped for some extra prizes.  Big libraries can't do that, but since we're so small it would be an option.

The thing about small libraries is that you know most of the kids that walk through the door.  You know their names, ages, and have a pretty good idea of what their home lives are like.  You know which ones need the most help with reading.  You know what kinds of books they prefer.  You know what games they play on our computers.  

At a small library you build relationships with these kids.  Granted, it's only for a short time.  Sometime in their teens they don't come through the door on a regular basis anymore.  Sometimes you don't see them until they bring their own children in.  You do your best to provide them with some tools for a successful life while you have the opportunity.  You impart on them the belief that public libraries are a wonderful thing.

It's really only the beginning of the planning stage, but we've already brainstormed quite a few new ideas.  It should be a fun year.  The Dig Into Reading theme translates to one thing for me, WORM ART!!  One of my most favorite projects!  I can hardly wait to share this painting technique with a few more kids.  What the rest of the six week program will bring is still up for discussion.  

Here's hoping we can bring a breath of fresh air to our summer reading program.  Maybe we can bottle up some of this below zero windchill and pull it out in July. 

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America


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