Summer Reading Magic: Bring on the Kids ..and the DIRT!

by Shayna Monnens, Head Editor, INALJ South Dakota

Summer Reading Magic: Bring on the Kids ..and the DIRT!

shaynam1It’s that mystical time of year again where libraries and their staff are working diligently and quickly to finalize and implement their library summer reading program. As a children’s librarian and one who handles teen programming, I personally find this time of year to be incredibly exciting but also a tad overwhelming. From designing outreach programs to coming up with library displays on an epic scale all while continuing daily librarian duties, May can be a busy month. The circles developing under my eyes are testament to this. 😀

South Dakota does participate in the Collaborative Summer Reading Program each year, and I was extremely excited about this year’s theme. I have always envisioned myself to be an archaeologist/gemologist/historian trapped inside this librarian body. This was the perfect theme for some of my favorite topics to present to kids: dinosaurs, archaeology, tombs, treasure hunting, gnomes, and gardening!

For the first few weeks of May I have been extremely busy working on outreach to the schools. I have had the opportunity to visit two elementary schools and two Christian schools in our town and presented to each and every kid in these schools! What a blast! One of our other reference librarians, Mary, and I have talked to and presented the summer reading program “Dig Into Reading” and the YA program “Beneath the Surface” to almost 1800 kids! How exciting is that?!

The wonderful school librarians in our community are kind enough to hand over their final library time and work with the teachers to coordinate schedules. Our time with the class or classes is about 30 minutes long, and we start each session with a skit to get it started and introduce the audience to the theme. Our kids LOVE this!! In the past, the children’s librarian would host a puppet show, but since I am not overly fond of puppets, I forgo this for the chance to get the kids involved with the skit by assigning different roles and characters. Nothing makes a kid happier than to be the star for their class, and boy, can they act! After the skit concludes, which usually lasts around 5 minutes (may go longer depending on the improv and imagination of our little actor and actresses), we then spend the remaining time presenting the summer reading program, showing prizes, and getting the kids psyched about it.

If you find yourself fortunate enough to work with the summer reading program, I have found that scheduling and making a to-do list are critical to not losing your mind. We purchase all of the necessary outreach materials, most of the prizes, and brainstorm for ideas about the program starting in January of each year. This was my first year to really dig in (pun intended) and plan the programming from start to finish. By the end of February, we had narrowed down exactly what sort of programs we wanted to present to the kids and the teens.

Summer reading was put on the back burner during March and April, but became Priority #1 during May. The last week of April I spend a great deal of time communicating with the area schools on setting up time to visit the schools. Trying to get to all the kids before school lets out is an interesting juggling game, working around field trips, special events, and the final week or two of school. When the school visits are almost done, I started working on the library displays. My vision for this summer is a cave/mine. With a mining cart, trakcs, stalactites and stalagmites, I plan on creating a display that is not only 3-D but one that the kids can actively walk through and interact with. Whew!

Each year we also have a kids name on our wall that, once they have completed another week of reading, they can put a sticker on. Stickers are great and all, but I think gems are better. This year, each kid who signs up will get a little treasure bag that will contain a gem or ancient coin for each week they read their two hours. I think the kids are more excited about this than any other aspect of the program, including the weekly prizes!

This summer we do have an exciting line-up. The program lasts 8 weeks, and has 4 major outside programs. Not too shabby for a small town library. Each week will have a different theme revolving around the central theme of “Dig Into Reading”, with weekly story times and some amazing weekly activities that include gold-panning, gardening, and going on an archaeological dig! From a special guest presenter to a master puppeteer to a month long dinosaur interactive display, hopefully there is enough to gets kids into the library and continuing to read throughout the summer months. While prizes and gems are all fun, the main goal is to improve and maintain a child’s reading level throughout the summer months and to encourage a healthy lifelong habit of visiting the library.

As someone who plans and implements a program on this scale, I will tell you this that is a wonderful and very opportune time to offer your volunteer services to a library. Right now, and during the upcoming programs, I am going to need all the help I can get, and I am incredibly thankful for the volunteers we had and those who have applied for a volunteer position in the past month. This might be a great way to get your name out there and beef up your resume!

Here are some of the sources that I follow for inspiration and ideas for the summer reading.

–        Rachel Moani: The Crafty Life on an Almost Librarianshe has some of the most amazing ideas!

–        Pinterest – Search for “summer reading 2013” and prepare to be blown away!

–        TeachingBooks. net – great list of books if you have hit a wall!

–        Any Google search for “summer reading 2013” – from other libraries to the official CLSP site, there is so much out there to get ideas from

I hope your library is having as wonderful of a time planning for this exciting program as I am! Bring on the summer reading!