Blogger Laura Schulte-Cooper

Rewind on Summer Reading and Learning

CAL Rewind, ALSC's Children & Libraries

I know I don’t need to tell you that summer reading and learning programs are a mainstay at public libraries across the country. It’s no surprise then that ALSC’s journal, Children and Libraries, features many an article to support librarians with all aspects—planning to evaluation—of this celebrated, annual undertaking.

Why not take a break from putting the finishing touches on your own summer planning and read these hand-picked articles that address various facets of the summer reading and learning experience. They may provide valuable food for thought for your 2020 summer program planning.

Engaging Students with the Library

Dream It, Write It, Share It, article front page: Summer Reading and LearningDream It, Write It, Share It: How One Library Engages Students’ Summer Learning Program Interest by Melanie Lewis

When Summer Reading program participation waned at the Mint Hill Branch of the Charlotte (NC) Mecklenburg Library, the children’s services team took action and devised an approach for increasing the program’s visibility and participation. The result was “Dream It, Write It, Share It,” a contest encouraging students to write and giving them the chance to see their work produced and performed by library staff. Thanks to the contest, students felt more engaged with their public library and compelled to participate in its programs. According to author Melanie Lewis, “The enthusiasm of the school staff, the structure of the contest, and the magic of live performance combined to make this a successful partnership. Library visits and summer reading program participation increased and we built a strong foundation for future collaborations with our local schools.”

Rewards and Reading

A Hook and a Book: Rewards as Motivators in Public Library Summer Reading Programs by Ruth V. Small, Marilyn P. Arnone, and Erin Bennett

With myriad programs and activities competing for children’s time during the summer, must libraries offer incentives to attract students to summer reading programs? This article examines program incentives offered by two urban public library systems and describes their impact on reading motivation and behavior. The authors use results from participant interviews and librarian surveys to provide recommendations for when and how to motivate participants’ engagement in summer reading programs with and without rewards. The authors state, “Working together, summer reading program participants, their parents, and their librarians can design summer reading programs that focus on helping youth not only read more but read better….”

Guys Read!

Motivating Boys to Read, article cover pageMotivating Boys to Read: Guys Read, a Summer Library Reading Program for Boys by Deborah R. Dillon, David G. O’Brien, Cassandra Scharber, and Kristen Nichols-Besel

Hennepin County (MN) Library (HCL), working with award-winning author Jon Scieszka, designed a Guys Read Summer Book Club program, the goals of which were to: encourage boys to read more over the summer months and beyond; develop positive relationships between boys and male book club facilitators; and foster boys’ positive attitudes toward and associations with reading. Researchers from the University of Minnesota collaborated with HCL staff in evaluating the effectiveness of the book club. The evaluation results, laid out in the article, are intended to “help bring attention to the important work libraries do in fostering reading…; inform other libraries in their development of children’s book clubs; and encourage rigorous evaluations of library programs.”

Hope you enjoy this Rewind on summer reading and learning and find it beneficial to your work. See you next time. Happy [Summer] Reading!


  1. Bernie Farrell

    Hennepin County Library no longer offers gender-specific book clubs.

    Hennepin County Library fully supports book clubs for young readers and beginning readers. Participating in a book club can be critical to supporting reading fluency and proficiency. Book clubs also support the joy of reading as a social and emotional learning activity.

    Although we hosted Guys Read and Girls Only Book Clubs for many years, we changed our focus, and we no longer offer gender-specific book clubs.

    When we started the Guys Read program back in 2005-2006, gender issues weren’t being talked about or understood in the same way they are now. Part of the purpose of Guys Read was to welcome boys and help them feel comfortable as readers. The research showed that we didn’t quite meet that goal, as 70% of the participants liked to read before participating and 40% had attended book clubs before (Dillon, 2017). Our goal has always been to welcome and invite. Moving to non-gendered book clubs is another step in making sure we do that. It is also consistent with other programming we offer which is not gender-specific.

    We learned a lot about best practices for book clubs through participating in the Guys Read research and in our subsequent work on improving quality in all our programming for kids and youth. However, we ultimately did not really move the dial on reaching boys who were struggling with reading.

    We continue to foster all those elements that made the Guys Read book clubs successful:
    • Kids identify reading as a social activity
    • Kids experience a wide range of facilitation styles and benefit from experienced facilitators who bring more depth to the experience
    • Kids find more books to read and try new books
    • Kids read more for pleasure and interest

  2. Laura Schulte-Cooper Post author

    Thank you for the additional information, Bernie.

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