Last week, in the midst of getting ready for our big SRC training, I attended a great webinar by Booklist on summer reading! It was nearly a mini-SRC training!
It was, I have to say, one of the very best online webinars I've attended recently and I thought I'd share the highlights. Though the webinar itself is available on vimeo to watch at your leisure. And all the books discussed are available here. Some titles you've heard of (Judy Moody series, Stink series, Ramona - though did you know the live action Ramona and Beezus movie is coming out this summer!) but some you may not have heard of like, A Nest for Celeste, the Scream Street series (which no one owns yet!) and A Drowned Maiden's Hair.
In addition to recommending some great books (I was lucky enough to get a free copy of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, so it really pays to attend these things!) they also had Jeannette Larson and Carole D. Fiore on board to talk about tips and tricks for your SRC. Here are some of the bits I found most important and thought-provoking:
- When planning your SRC, it sounds obvious, but think about about who you're serving and why? Consider your purpose. Every library may have a different set of goals and so your SRC should be deliberately structured around those goals.
- Don't forget what you want to accomplish in your community. What do you most want to see as an outcome of your program? The benefits of a summer reading club are numerous like involvement from community members and businesses; getting people to see the library as a vital part of community life, as a place of connection; growing the partnerships with schools and organizations; and attracting new customers to the library who you've never seen. SRC as we know, is one of the most visible programs libraries put on and that can mean positive publicity and ultimately, higher circulation numbers!
- Consider where your program can have the greatest impact? Is it with special populations like incarcerated children, children in group homes, children with disabilities, or non-English speakers? Those populations who may not have access to books.
- Keep in mind how you are serving (or not serving) the children you aren't seeing.
- Children read what's popular. So word of mouth is the best PR for reading. Try combining populations so they can influence each other.
- As we all know, studies have confirmed the importance of SRC. There is a true link between participation in a summer reading club and academic success. And seeing people reading is one of the most influential experiences that will make children readers. Summer reading programs enrich the toolkit children have for their studies in school. It's even been said that independent reading may do more to advance a child's academic success than summer school!
- And because learning happens while kids are having fun, the programs you offer during summer are just as important as the reading incentives. Remember, your summer reading programs should be a break from school, so keep the FUN up!
- The key to any successful SRC is planning! I know you might hate hearing this, but it's a good idea to start planning next year's SRC at end of the previous summer. While my planning schedule differs from yours, this is how I manage my SRC planning. As soon as September starts, the 2011 SRC Planning Team will be meeting to brainstorm about ideas for next year. If you're planning some big changes, that's the time to start.
- So those goals and outcomes mentioned above, think about those as you structure your SRC. The specific kinds of PR you might do and organizations you might involve.
- Identify key dates like the last day of school; first day of school the following year; big summer events; summer school; other organizations' events; local parades; band camps; etc. Also, remember to allow time for vacations for staff.
- Include other reading formats in what you count as reading, like reading aloud to others, magazines, online reading. Do the rules that you put into place encourage or discourage participation?
- The program works best if children are competing against themselves vs.others. There are tons of ways to encourage that kind of competition. Like count time vs. titles! This is something we're going to ask every library to do next year. It levels the playing field AND our county could end up with an impressive number we can use for grants!
- Keep prizes in line with what you're doing. The best prizes are books or book-related. Children could even select a book the library will add to collection with a bookplate and the child's name. Create alternative prizes that applaud children for reading! Like filling up bulletin board with game pieces that show how much is being read. Group recognition is great too - try planting a tree for every 1000 hours of reading.
- Program ideas! Use the book, The Death Defying Pepper Roux or Horrible Harry Goes to Sea to inspire a program. Set up a limbo and hold a dance contest. Create ships in a bottle. For a good family program, put on some Pirates of the Caribbean music and use Roger the Jolly Pirate,or Do Pirates Take Baths, Shiver Me Letters, How I Became a Pirate or The Great Pirate Activity Book for inspiration.
- Results from a new 3-year study, from Dominican University are due out soon on summer reading programs. While much of it confirms what we already know, there are some interesting facts that may influence your plans:
- The study definitely validated things we know: more girls participate than boys; children who participate come from higher socio-economic families; most children who participate are white; children who participate were already readers before program; children who participate: like to go to the library and pick their own books; and most of them their own library cards.
- But it also discovered some things we perhaps didn't know, or don't want to accept: children who participate like to read magazines; participants scored higher on standardized tests than those who did not participate (great fact to use in grant applications!); more effort needs to be put into reaching out directly to boys (I'm currently planning a workshop on boys in the library this fall! Stay tuned for more details!) So this means offering some computer programs, video-game programs and book-related programs around non-fiction.
- There is a great need for more marketing directed at parents. They are the transportation! So things like Facebook and Twitter are great, free ways to get kids into the library!
- What about incentives for parents? Things like bus passes, store and restaurant coupons could go a long way in getting kids to pick up a book at home.
- Work to identify non-readers and underperforming students and reach out to them! Recruitmant and PR should be aimed at non-library users since this study discovered that readers are already on board with summer reading programs.
- Connections with area schools is so very important! Whether you get in there to do a promo for SRC or you can slip in a flyer into a newsletter or report card, it's essential to work with the schools.