Blogger Meg Smith

Kick-off or Race Straight into Summer Reading Club?

Race into Summer Reading Club

 As we inch closer and closer to those hot summer days, I’m sure many of us around the country are gearing up for months of intense crowds and extensive programming. At our eight branches of the Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center in Fayetteville, NC, we prepare for eight weeks of story times and special programming, and of course, our annual Summer Reading Club.

In previous years, we’ve organized a Summer Reading Club kick-off program for our participants, highlighting a professional programmer outside of our library system; many years we’ve featured a musician or magician to relate to our theme. Due to the content, some of these programs have been geared for children already in elementary school; many have been advertised as appropriate for all-ages. 

  This year, however, we’re making some changes. Instead of focusing on a kick-off event to celebrate our festivities this summer, we are turning toward more staff and community-driven programming at our individual locations. By forgoing the kick-off special, we are able to retain our funds for future projects and can tailor our individual programming schedule to best meet the needs of each individual branch.

Our Summer Reading Club registration still follows a traditional format as in previous years. Children from birth through fifth grade receive a reading record and keep track of every 20 minutes they read or that someone reads to them. Kids receive prizes for 4, 8, 12 and 24 hours of reading. Programming counts, too; if children attend a story time or special program, they count that time toward their reading goal.

Individual library branches plan their series of special programming for the summer, but we also rely on coordination and collaboration of our children’s programs to best utilize our time and resources as a system. We regularly partner with local community agencies; we’ve scheduled programs with a K-9 unit from the sheriff’s department and a representative from the All-American Fencing Academy. 

How has your Summer Reading Club adapted throughout the years? Does your system gear up for your summer programs with kick-off events or have those fallen by the wayside in light of your community’s needs? Which approach do you think is more effective: starting your Summer Reading Club with a kick-off presentation or beginning your summer activities with traditional story times and programs? Please share your thoughts about how you kick-off or race right into summer reading at your library!


  1. Abby

    We have done kick off events in the past, but last year and this year we have not. Although our Summer Reading Club starts May 21 (2 days before kids get out of school so teachers and schools have one last chance to push them to sign up!), we’re not starting our programming until the first week of June. This gives staff a “break” to concentrate on registering kids during the days of highest registration. We do hire special performers throughout the summer, but we don’t highlight one as a “kick off”, and two years ago we planned a kick-off party, but found the attendance wasn’t really worth the amount of effort we had to put in to plan it.

  2. Jennifer Wharton

    I’ve done something a little different every year – this will be my fifth summer reading! This year I’m doing fewer programs; just our regular four storytimes and two weekly after school clubs and only adding one big event per week for summer reading (five performers and two parties – star wars and fancy nancy) I’m also doing two teen programs (only teen stuff I do all year).
    We are having a kickoff, but it will just be a local environmental group in the lobby with information about bats and games to play. We’re doing a bookmark model for summer reading this year, based on Marge Loch-Wouters’ program and the kids will receive the first week’s bookmark when I visit the schools.

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