Programming Ideas

Summer Programming for School Agers : No Sweat!

Like many of you out there in Library Land, I am in a flurry and scurry mode to get my summer reading programming finalized.  By this, I’m referring to supplemental programming, outside of our Summer Reading Program. One of the many challenges faced by Youth Services librarians is getting the programming for all age groups balanced equitably. Inevitably there are always requests from patrons for more!

During Summer Reading (which runs from June 1 to July 31) my library offers a wide variety of school age programming, with at least one program every week day.

Drama Camp!

I think the key to having successful summer programming for school age children is balance.  Make sure that the majority of your programs will appeal to a large percentage of you patron base. Book some great, energetic performers.  Find a way to bring the school-age children in to the library and more importantly keep them coming back all summer long.

Programs don’t need to cost a tremendous amount of money.  Even if your library has a limited (non-existent) programming budget, there are creative ways to engage school age children.  Offer simple crafts, board game days, start a volunteer or book buddy program.

Another way to stretch programming dollars is to partner with local businesses, community agencies, and your village/town/city.  My library has built several working partnerships with the parks and local businesses.  They can often provide supplies or meeting spaces and the library supplies the staffing.

If you have time and funds you can fill out the calendar with more specialized programs.

STEM summer program

For our science and technology minded youngsters we have all kinds of technology programs. These include coding, light painting, STEAM club, Google Expeditions, robotics, live animal programs, science experiments, Junior Master Gardeners club, and more.

Students that are interested in the arts have options as well. We offer an ongoing writing workshop called Rising Writers and run a two week drama camp, Shakespeare for Children. We have two different school age book discussion groups, an annual storytelling festival, art and crafting programs, an ongoing film series, a program called Passport to Adventure which explores world cultures through art, music and exploration.

For outside entertainment, we bring in musicians, storytellers, and animal shows.

Two other popular activities we run include a bi-monthly after hours lock in, and we have a thriving middle school volunteer program.

What type of programming do you offer during the summer? How much of it is linked directly to your summer reading program?  What percentage of your programming is focused on school age children; in contrast to preschool; all ages; family; etc.?

Please share your stories with us.  We’d love to hear what you do to make your summer programming a smash hit.


Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Illinois, where she focuses on community programming. Besides her regularly scheduled duties, Alexa created and runs the library’s annual drama camp, storytelling festival, and teaching garden. In her spare time she loves to read, dabble in the arts, and putter in as many gardens as possible. Alexa is currently serving on the School-Age Programs and Service Committee and on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

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