Three years ago we decided to try the STEAM approach with our Summer Reading Club. We added activities and now emphasize experiences over cheap plastic toy prizes. One way we ramped things up was with partnerships.
We already had a great partnership with the local amusement park. They give us a free ride bracelet for the readers who finish the Summer Reading Club, and I attribute this fabulous prize to our high finish rate — last year, we had nearly 80% of our participants complete! It is a big incentive for kids to take a trip to Upper Clements Park, and we love the partnership. We attend their annual School Days with activities like our StoryWalk and scavenger hunts for words. There’s always learning going on; teachers and parents see it even if the kids don’t.
Our latest partnership is with the local zoo. It is small — Oaklawn Farm Zoo began, as its name suggests, as a farm. At this zoo, kids can get pretty close to animals, and can learn all about them on the zoo’s resources page. The daily big cat feeding is one of the best educational experiences around— I learn something new every time I go (and I’ve been more than a few times).
Here’s how our partnership works: twice in the summer, the zoo offers free admission to those 18 & under when they show their library card. We take our bookmobile out to the zoo, and our Community Engagement Team spends the day there with activities such as our StoryWalk, arts & crafts, our Be Fit Kits, ukuleles, needle-felting (with some zoo-produced fibres!), and our Prize Wheel. These extra activities encourage families to stick around a bit longer and enjoy a rest, then back to see the animals again. They also allow families to get a taste of some of the programs we offer at the library, and we get to chat with parents while their children play, create, and learn. We recently held our first Zoo Day of the summer, and over 200 kids
took advantage of the free admission. Since our bookmobile is on site, those without a library card can get one right away. We had at least 45 new library patrons that day!
Look around your community. Who can you partner with to offer learning experiences in the summer? What can YOU offer them to make the partnership more enticing? Partnerships have to be beneficial to both parties, so think about how you can pitch the idea to your community. I’d love to hear about your current partnerships in the comments!
(photos by Angela J. Reynolds)