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Outcomes-Based Summer Reading: Programs, Prizes, and Decorations
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Ideas for outcomes-based programs and prizes, program promotion, and decorating the library

Your outcomes-based summer reading program will be most successful when your summer reading activities are designed with the outcomes in mind and the project outcomes should drive many aspects of programming for your summer reading program.

Be mindful about creating an environment and planning programs and activities that contribute to the goal of developing a community of readers and library users. Keeping the concept of community and community-building in mind may result in more programs where children and teens take a more active role than the traditional magic shows and clown performances where young people are part of a passive audience. Of course, these performances may still be part of the mix as a way to attract kids to the library and to call broader attention to the theme and wide range of summer activities.

Here is a list of suggestions for programs, prizes, promoting summer reading, and decorating the library in support of outcome one. The suggestions have been made by California librarians, and many of the programming ideas are taken from the “best summer reading program ideas” that are submitted each year to the California Library Association.

If you have ideas to add to this list, please let us know!

Promoting the summer reading program

  • Be mindful of your program outcomes when you promote the summer reading program. For example, tailor the language you use at school visits, on the library’s website, the local radio or television station, and in the local newspaper, to the outcomes you hope to achieve, and use illustrations that suggest a feeling of community among readers.

Summer reading kick-off

  • Host a big party or carnival-style event to kick-off summer reading or as a culminating event. These big programs are fun for all, they can involve the community, and they can be great PR for the library. Activities that libraries have successfully used at such event include performances by bands, face-painting, performers, a family picnic, a scavenger hunt, a book festival, a dunk-the-librarian booth, a rock climbing wall, a giant slide, a bounce house, DDR, Wii, balloon animals, game booths, food booths, raffle, board games, DJ, and prize drawings. To tailor your carnival to the outcomes, ensure that books and reading are a prominent feature of the event.

Programming ideas (passive)

  • When signing new readers up, say: “Welcome to the community of readers.”
  • At the beginning of summer reading programs and activities, ask participants to turn to the person next to them and tell their neighbor what book they’re reading. Invite one person to share his or her book recommendation in front of the audience and give that person a book as a prize.
  • Have a summer reading cheer that you do at the beginning of children’s programs and activities.
  • Set up a recommendation table in the library where people can place books they recommend for others, and can select a recommended book. Invite patrons to write a note to go with the book explaining why they recommended it.
  • Set up wall displays of questions about books.
  • Bulletin board: kids who read five books get to write their name on the die cut.
  • Bulletin board: teens write and post book reviews for others to read.
  • Hang mirrors in the teen area for teens to write on with paint pens, creating a communal book list and review area.

Programming ideas (active)

  • An “I can read” party for first graders, or “Chapter book friends party.” You can use the parties as an opportunity to talk about community at the library.
  • Work with the Paws to Read program where kids learn to read by reading to dogs.
  • Book clubs. Discussions don’t have to focus on one book: participants could each talk about and recommend a different book they’ve read, or they could read books of their choice on a certain theme such as animals, travel, or books-to-movies.
  • Summer book buddies program where children read to older kids.
  • Craft program for teens at which they create library T-shirts with silk screening. Wearing the t-shirts is likely to generate a sense of community among the wearers.
  • Find the Hidden Book contest which can run for several weeks during the height of the summer reading program: each day a gift-wrapped book is hidden in the stacks of the children’s area. The first child to find the book receives a prize and has their name displayed in the library.
  • Choral reading program.
  • Bookswap: a program where teens exchange books they’ve already read.
  • Read-in: invite children or teens to bring beach chairs and towels and read in the library.
  • Reading time: set aside a time for staff to help children practice their reading skills.
  • Create your own book cover workshop: replace book covers on teen books with covers created by teens.

Programming ideas (online)

  • Create a space on your website where teens can post book reviews, or invite teens to post book recommendations on a community board in the library.
  • Host an art program for teens whereby participants design new book jackets for tatty books and write their own book description and recommendation on the jacket.

Prizes and incentives

The prizes and incentives you give out can help participants feel as though they are part of a community of readers.

  • Give out reusable/recycled book bags with the library’s name or logo on them when people sign up. This will help children and teens recognize other summer reading participants and help them feel like they are part of a community.
  • When participants have read a certain number of pages or books, or read for a certain number of hours, place a personalized bookplate in their honor in a new library book of their choice.
  • Give out books as summer reading prizes. Try to buy a selection of books so that children and teens can choose which book they would like.

Decorating the library

The look and feel of the library can contribute to whether or not you foster a sense of community among summer reading participants. Don’t forget to decorate the library according to the summer reading theme and prominently display theme-based books. Ask children and teens for their ideas about how to decorate the library during the summer. In addition, there are lots of ways that you can publicly acknowledge and promote all the reading that’s being done to help participants feel part of a reading community:

  • Place a clear, perspex box in the library and invite children and teens to place the titles of books they have read during the summer into the box. Everyone can watch the number of papers grow, and the library will have a running total of books of how many books have been read.
  • Display an interactive board that shows the growing number of books read in your community during the summer.
  • Invite everyone who signs up for or completes the summer reading program to write their name on a theme-based die-cut shape (or write their name on one large shape) and display them (or it) prominently in the library.
  • Create a readers paper chain around the library: one link for each book read by a summer reading participant.
  • If you offer summer reading for all ages, have one station for sign-ups so that the whole family can sign up together and the feeling of community is enhanced.