Though 4th of July has come and gone, summer reading is still in full swing. A critical part of our summer reading initiatives is our outreach programming to provide resources to youth unable to visit the library. One of our most successful outreach programs is our involvement with Summertime Kids. The Friends of the Cumberland County Public Library, Inc. recently received a $10,000.00 Summertime Kids Grant through Cumberland Community Foundation, Inc. to provide books and book bags to youth involved in Summertime Kids camps. Summertime Kids camps provide summer resources and experiences to youth from underserved communities, and public library staff partner with camp sites to provide books and book bags to participants.
During Summertime Kids programming, youth services staff encourage campers to develop their skills in choosing reading materials as participants select two books they take home to begin or add to their home libraries. Children and teens also receive a book bag they may use during future library visits. Participants have the opportunity to discuss books they are interested in reading and hear suggestions from library staff on books that may appeal to them. Campers also receive information about various library resources and services and experience library programming.
During the grant’s implementation last year, library staff reported success in reaching campers initially appearing to lack focus through demonstrating interactive library activities. Campers chose puppets and were able to model the storytelling experience by utilizing their puppet to act out the story and by playing with puppets by making animal sounds as they developed characterization. Library staff expressed teachers were also quite surprised and entertained by some of the “spot on” reactions and humor displayed by the campers.
This grant not only supports youth in the community but provides an opportunity to share library resources with camp counselors and site directors, many of whom may be unfamiliar with library services. After participation this summer, one camp director commented, “the books that were available for the campers to choose from were wonderful. Honestly, I was a little jealous because I like to read a lot of the books that the campers chose.” This sentiment helps to demonstrate the value of books for youth and broadens interest in library services.
Participants of Summertime Kids programming represent youth from across our diverse community. In 2018, the public library reported that more than 50% of campers served likely identify as African American/Black, and more than 50% of the campers likely identify as male. Many of the campers qualify as having differing abilities, including campers diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While there were some children served between the ages of birth to 5 and ages 19-23, 60% of participants in 2018 were between the ages of 6-12 and 28% were identified between the ages of 13-18.
The public library served more than 450 campers in 2018. Due to the generosity of Cumberland Community Foundation, Inc., we expect to more than double this participation in 2019 as many camp directors expressed interest in partnering with the public library this summer. What are your most successful outreach experiences serving youth? Please share in the comments below!