Hack Your Summer Reading Program

Summer. A time for fresh cut grass and ice cream cones and baseball games and…books? Of course! Summer just wouldn’t be the same without summer reading programs, which are in full swing right now in libraries all across the country. In fact, twenty years ago, the National Center for Educational Statistics found that 95% of all US public libraries offered summer reading programs, and one can only imagine that that percentage has increased over time. Summer reading programs were established in the late 1800s, and were designed to encourage school children to develop the habit of reading for pleasure and to maintain the literacy levels they had acquired during the school year. And while those goals remain the foundation of summer reading programs, additional goals such as encouraging diversity, promoting STEM learning, and including programming for teens and adults, have found their way into recent years’ programming.

The yearly themes vary, and individual library systems can choose their own, or they can adopt the ones selected by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) or the Illinois Reading Enrichment and Development program (iREAD). This year, the CSLP themes are Fizz, Boom, READ! for children and Spark a Reaction for teens, both of which encourage science-based reading and learning. For iREAD, the theme is Paws to Read, which focuses on animal-themed reads. Although these themes drive the activities and displays libraries plan, they are meant simply to guide readers, not box them in. Reading of all kinds is encouraged. So, without further ado, here is a list of ways to make the most of your summer reading…because it’s not just for kids!

  1. Get inspired by great programs around the country. Library websites are a huge source of inspiration for those of us interested in youth programming or summer programming in general. The Austin Public Library and the Saint Paul Public Library have both set up impressive sites with details about the events and activities they have planned for this year. Also, the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) has awarded this year’s $3,000 ALSC/Baker & Taylor Summer Reading Program Grant to the Chesterfield (Va.) County Public Library, to aid in their inspiring take on the Paws to Read campaign.
  2. Visit your local public library. Sometimes, it’s just nice to be a patron. Even the smallest of public libraries often offer great programming in the summer, so check yours for crafting clubs, film showings, and computer classes. Linger in the stacks, browse, and allow for serendipitous reading choices. Relive your childhood and go see a magician or clown and then walk out with a mile-high stack of picture books. As the gang from Arthur says, “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!”
  3. Read! Take this time away from library school—if you should be so fortunate—to make your way through a list of award winners, or the ALSC recommended summer reading list, or the latest recommendations from NPR’s Nancy Pearl. What’s most important, though, is that you read something, anything, that strikes your fancy. Summer is the perfect time (and often the only time) to kick back and read for pleasure, so take advantage!

As for me, I’ll be spending this summer on my balcony, sipping sweet tea while reading some combination of romance novels, YA lit, and Caldecott winners…care to join me?

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