Blogger Abby Johnson

Starting a Daycare Summer Reading Club

This summer, we’re adding a new component to our Summer Reading Club: a special program just for daycares and summer camps.

We’ve had daycares and summer camps interested in participating in previous summers, but it’s never really worked out well for either party. The daycare staff spent a lot of time registering each child, library staff spent a lot of time getting together materials for this large group of kids, and then we never heard from anyone at the daycare again. Often the groups wanted to register everyone when they came to the library for a visit, causing a crunch for library staff as we struggled to get everything ready on the spot. Very few kids reported that they had completed the program and it felt like a waste of our time and resources. The daycare staff that did follow through ended up spending a large amount of time trying to keep dozens of reading logs straight and visiting the library sometimes weekly to collect prizes for kids who had completed the program.

This year, we’re aiming to make things easier for everyone involved by setting up a separate program just for daycares. Here’s how I plan for it to work:

I’ll send out information about the program this week or next week (our Summer Reading Club starts May 20!). Interested daycares and summer camps will call the library (or stop by) and let us know they want to sign up and how many kids they have. They can sign up at any point over the summer, just like individual patrons. We’ll establish a contact person for the group so that we can check back with them during the summer. Library staff will put together a box for them including:

  • A reading log for each child
  • A packet of coupons and a small prize for each child
  • A guide for daycare/camp staff about how the SRC works and suggesting ways to incorporate reading into their daily activities
  • A sheet to record finishers and send back to the library
  • A flyer advertising our library services for groups (group visits, field trips, book collections)

Daycare/camp staff will have everything they need to run the Summer Reading Club and award prizes to the kids who complete the program. We’ll give them a call about halfway through the summer just to make sure they have everything they need and see if there’s anything we can do to help them finish. Can we set up a teacher card and bring them a selection of books? Would they like us to visit and share some books or do booktalks? Are they interested in planning a field trip to the library so the kids can pick out some books?

I’m really hopeful that this will make the Summer Reading Club easier for daycares and summer camps and that we’ll have a greater completion rate for these groups that sign up. And if we don’t, we’re still eliminating some of our stress from trying to sign up large groups on the spot.

As we were planning this program, we did have a few issues to think about:

What if a kid signs up individually with his family and then his daycare also signs up?

We decided that the potential for overlap was probably pretty small, so it’s fine if kids want to sign up individually. This is something we’ll keep an eye on and decide if we need to tweak the rules for next year. I’d rather err on the side of handing out too many prizes than on the side of being too restrictive and discouraging anyone from joining. Plus, kids will get slightly different prizes for signing up individually.

Slightly different prizes? Is that fair?

We tried to make it as fair as we could while still making the program as simple as possible. Typically, a SRC finisher will receive a packet of coupons donated by local businesses, a small prize, and an entry slip for the grand prize drawings. The daycare boxes will include a smaller packet of coupons (we’ll include the ones we can run off unlimited copies of) and small prizes. We couldn’t figure out a way to easily include grand prize drawing slips, so if kids want to be eligible for the grand prizes, they’ll need to come down to the library and sign up individually.

Honestly, our return rate for the daycare finishers has been so low in the past that I’m not too worried about it. We’ll deal with any questions as they come up. And, as always, we’ll keep notes about what we can change for next year to make it work better.

How do you KNOW the kids actually finished if you’re not seeing their reading logs? What happens if kids DON’T finish?

We’re going to take the word of the daycare staff on this one. And I included wording in the Summer Reading Club guide to express that we understand that some kids might not finish. The daycare is welcome to keep the prizes or return them to us. We’ll see how that goes and if we have a large number of groups who keep prizes and don’t report finishers, we’ll reevaluate for next year.

What about incentives for daycare staff?

I’ve heard about other libraries offering a “prize” for daycare staff to reward them for doing the program with their kids or to encourage them to return finished reading logs, etc. We elected not to do that this year and see how it goes. I think it’s going to be more important to keep in touch with each group throughout the summer. Since we’ve had interest from daycares in the past, I think they will be motivated to follow through, especially if we’re keeping in touch with them. Also, we can always add that factor next year if we feel like it’s necessary.

We’re using Evanced Summer Reader this year, so can we use their group registration?

We elected to keep the daycare program paper only this year. From what I can tell, the group registration is set up to measure what an entire group reads collectively (i.e. Mrs. Johnson’s first grade class read 657 books this year). I need individual finisher names so that I can send them to our local schools, many of which honor the kids who completed the SRC in some way.

We’re introducing a LOT of changes to our Summer Reading Club this year, going online for the first time, so a lot of this summer is going to be see-how-it-goes and tweak-as-necessary! Bottom line is that we strive to be flexible and say “yes” whenever possible. It’s more important to me that the Summer Reading Club be a positive library experience than it is to make lots of rules and follow them to the letter.

Have you done any kind of special Summer Reading Club for daycares, summer camps, or groups? I’d love to hear what you’ve done and what advice you might have!

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN


  1. Sarah Stippich

    Thanks for writing about this, Abby!

    I work in a branch of a large urban library, and we get LOTS of camp groups and daycares. My main camp-related Summer Reading dilemma is just room management; some camps show up unannounced with 30 kids, some camps don’t show up for their planned story times, lots of kids hang out all day and we have limited space. That, combined with a drastically cut SR budget (= lots less prizes) and a redesigned SR pilot (Bingo cards instead of a gameboard) is going to be a challenge!

    What has helped me the most is recruiting my most responsible tweens to volunteer for the summer. They help run the SR table and get everyone’s prizes together. We present volunteering as a training opportunity, so if they do a great job, we are sometimes able to offer them afterschool jobs in the fall.

  2. Marge Loch-Wouters

    Group SLPs are a great way to involve kids in literacy. Your program will be appreciated – staff at the library will get a bit more leeway and providers will appreciate the effort. Win-win!

  3. Pingback: Daycare Summer Reading Club: How It Went | ALSC Blog

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