This year marks the 29th year of my library system’s annual poetry contest for kids. I love that this writing tradition has continued for so long and that kids and teachers still enjoy it. Below are a few other writing program ideas I’ve seen or read about going on in libraries. I’ve added some book suggestions from the experts when applicable. I think the library is a great place for kids to experience writing for fun and hope one of these suggestions gets you excited to try something new.
- Start a writing club for kids. Use Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos as a group read and journal starter. It is pure fun. If you are part of the CSLP, which has the Libraries Rock theme, coloring journals in the catalog are only $1.25 – a cost effective way to promote writing and summer reading at the same time.
- Talk with kids about what books they love. Have them write about how a book changed them. Encourage them to enter the Letters about Literature Contest. Information about this contest can usually be found at your state’s Center for the Book.
- Have a poetry café where kids can share poems they’ve written themselves! Use Poems are Teachers by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater to find over 50 engaging ideas using poems as the inspiration. Serve awesome snacks, decorate the tables and have a real microphone – kids will love it.
- If you’re part of a library system, have a pen pal program using your internal book delivery system to help deliver letters from pen pals living in different library locations.
- Have a story writing contest. This takes preparation and the help of several judges to make it run smoothly. I’ve seen libraries “publish” the winners in a bound book that becomes part of the library collection. Use Georgia Heard’s Heart Maps with kids to help them write about what is really important to them.
- Start a graphic novel/comics club. Use comic book software for beginners or blank comic strip sheets to get started. As with everything else, there are a ton of YouTube videos that can help you plan your next steps with this group.
- For a more passive program, set-up a writing station complete with decorative papers, calligraphy materials, colored pens, and more. Display fun writing prompts, interesting photos and poetry books.
Whatever you do – have fun.
Cheri Crow is the Youth Services Coordinator at Delaware County Libraries in Pennsylvania. She enjoys children’s poetry and reading about how kids learn to read and write.