Guest Blogger

Getting Ready for Summer Reading during a pandemic

Our educational and hybrid strategy for Tails and Tales 

Summer reading is more important than ever this year as librarians are looking to create programs that combine technology, print resources and personal interaction to offer multiple access points for kids to enjoy educational, fun and safe activities through their local library. And, while we all want summer reading to be a huge success, it goes without saying that planning during a pandemic is quite a challenge!

Luckily in Pennsylvania, we have the Collaborative Summer Library Program which selected the theme for this year’s summer reading as Tails and Tales. The guiding principle behind this program is librarians sharing ideas, expertise, and costs to produce high-quality literacy-based summer reading programs that are enjoyable for all ages.

With a theme like Tails and Tales, we could have gone in many directions, but we decided to focus on the Tails end of things [pun intended!] and build our programs around engaging animal education and stories.

Fostering compassion for animals can teach children empathy, emotional management, social responsibility and more. When kids have relationships with animals, children show improvements in well-being and social-emotional development. Not only did children who were learning remotely this year miss out on physical contact with their peers and teachers, they also missed out on caring for the classroom pets.

Books about animals can help promote the human/animal connection and build the kind of empathy that comes with feeling connected to the animals with whom we share our planet.

Even with that broad goal, I was still struggling to come up with resources that could work across the board — books, hands-on activities, “meet the author” sessions, and other program components. Then, through a preview book sent to my office, I found Science, Naturally!

The boutique STEM publisher not only has engaging animal books for different age children, but has all of them in either a bilingual or Spanish edition, allowing us to offer more inclusive programming. The books we selected were:

Babies Nurse / Así se alimentan los bebés
Así crezco

All four titles focus on how all mammals, humans included, must travel the path from helplessness to maturity. And, all social mammals must rely on their mothers and their community to help them grow.

To enhance comprehension of the material, each title comes with four complementary Activity Sheets. The sheets come from their extensive Teacher’s Guides, which include hands-on activities, discussions, worksheets, and more to accommodate all types of learning styles. The advantage of the individual sheets is that we can duplicate them and insert them into each book.

Some of the Activity Sheets we are using include:

  • Who Snuggles and Who Nuzzles?
  • What’s at the End of Your Arm?
  • What is a Mammal?
  • Animal Adventure

Each of these activities can be found and downloaded from the Educational Resources tab on ScienceNaturally.com.

Our plan was to give each library copies of the books for their collection and to have the activity sheets available for kids at the library or as part of a curbside pickup bag.  We also displayed two of the books in our StoryWalk at Rose Tree Park and had numerous days where kids completed the walk and received a free copy of the book to take home along with the activity sheets.  We hoped that sending kids home with a book that they have explored with their caregiver first and completing fun activities, will hopefully engage them in the summer reading program, accommodate the children whose branch libraries are closed, and give them a boost on building their home collections.

As part of our summer festivities, in late July, Dia Michels, one of the authors, presented several Zoom events allowing the kids to meet an author and to play her “Are You Smarter Than a Mammalogist?” game. We offered the family friendly programs during day and evening time slots to accommodate as many families as possible.  In addition to interactive programming, the publisher was gracious enough to allow us to record the books for story-times to promote summer reading.  All of this helped to make our summer reading theme visible. 

All of this programming is part of a community grant from The Community’s Foundation to provide wildlife education and just happened to tie in beautifully with the summer theme and Science, Naturally!’s resources.   

I’d love to hear what you did to make this summer fun, safe and educational.


Our guest blogger today is Cheri Crow. Cheri is the Youth Services Coordinator at Delaware County Libraries based in Media, Pennsylvania, a federated system with 28 member libraries/locations located in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. She can be reached at ccrow@delcolibraries.org.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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