Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Summer Reading Planning at Washington County Public Library System

It has been a long two years for libraries, and summer reading programs were no exception. We spent two summers creating passive programs in what felt like countless grab-and-go bags. This year, we are excited to host our first in-person summer reading program since 2019, but we also began our planning process feeling a little daunted: how could we best create a show-stopping 2022 program after two pared-down years? 

Thankfully, the ingenuity of the library community saved the day. The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) manual provided fabulous ready-made storytimes, crafts, and programs; all we had to do was choose our favorites and plug them into our summer schedule. We also threw in a few suggestions from Facebook groups for a final program that feels fresh and unique to us. Using creative ideas from others has lightened our planning workload tremendously; we’ve been able to focus most of our work on delivering a great program to our families. We hope sharing some of these ideas will help ease your SRP stress!

Storytime and the CSLP manual 

We will be hosting in-person storytimes for summer reading. Our storytimes have been virtual on Facebook Live since May of 2021, so seeing kids’ faces again brings us great joy. The CSLP manual provides books, songs, rhymes, and activities on a loose weekly theme; everything we need and more for engaging storytime fun! This was especially helpful in a library system with multiple branches: each of the six storytime presenters across our system can choose storytime material from the manual. This gives everyone some freedom over their storytime while keeping us all on a unified theme each week.

A cart with colorful baskets containing various art supplies with a white and pink display sign.
Image courtesy of the author

Art Cart

Our new Art Cart contains a stash of papers, colored pencils, glue sticks, markers, patterned scissors, and more. Each month we make a sign encouraging kiddos who visit our library to create seasonal art using the supplies from the cart. In March, kids made paper plate rainbows, and this month they can make tissue paper flowers. This summer kiddos will make paper plate fish, pirate hats, and sailor spy glasses. Even without a cart, this would be an easy station to set up on a table for passive, creative play.

Bookmark Design Contest

A brown table with handouts instructing kids to design bookmarks with a container of coloring pencils.
Image courtesy of the author

During National Library Week we challenged kids to design a bookmark with our Oceans of Possibilities theme. We will select a few designs as our official 2022 SRP bookmarks and share them with library guests during the summer!

Programs for Families

We have programs planned for young children and their families, including a sea turtle party where we will share information about our adopted sea turtle, display books about sea turtles, and play related games and activities. We’ll also learn to tie sailing knots, paint watercolor seashells (we opted not to purchase actual shells due to the environmental impact), and host an ocean-themed yoga session. Our goal for these programs was to offer activities that would easily scale for all ages so that families could enjoy them together.

Programs for Teens

We all know that teenagers are a tough group to engage, so we focused on fun, social activities to get them in the door. Our popular Teen Cuisine program will continue through the summer. In this cooking program students will make their own candy sushi rolls from sweets like Rice Krispie treats, Swedish Fish, and Fruit Roll Ups. We’ll also have an epsom salt body scrub workshop fit for a mermaid, and a Mana-Tea party where teens can sample unusual kinds of tea while learning about manatees, too!

The teen programs will culminate in a Teen Trivia night on the last day of summer reading, where we’ll test how well teens remember the ocean facts they learned during the previous six weeks. This friendly competition with fun prizes will be the grand finale of the summer.

Scavenger Hunt

A handout with a white background and blue accents. The handout states that participants should search for the various sea creatures listed on it.
Image courtesy of the author

We started scavenger hunts in the children’s department during the pandemic. We printed small themed pictures (animals for Tales and Tails, monsters for Halloween, etc.) and put them in shelf talkers hidden around the children’s department. Kids took their scavenger hunt sheet and tried to find all the pictures to receive a small prize. This was a fun way to highlight different sections of the department, and our young guests have begun to look forward to it with each new season. Our summer scavenger hunt will have six weeks of fish, ships, and other ocean-themed pictures for little ones to discover. We created our scavenger hunt with Canva: please feel free to contact me if you’d like access to these files to use at your library!


The biggest change during the pandemic was the lack of performers in the library! This year we are welcoming two favorites back to WCPL: local storyteller Joelle Shenk and comic magician Professor Whizzpop. These two performers have created ocean-themed shows to complement the “Oceans of Possibilities” theme. We’re looking forward to providing our guests with these memorable experiences as part of our summer reading lineup.

Going back to an in-person summer reading program can be equal parts thrilling and nerve-wracking after two years of staying at home. We hope these ideas have given you inspiration to create your own wonderful take on the “Oceans of Possibilities” theme for your community. Have an incredible summer!

This blog post was written on behalf of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee by Aimee Haslam, Youth Services Coordinator, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA and by Annie Parsons, Library Technician, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills

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