Summer is the busiest time of year for public youth services librarians across the country: we stack our calendars with programming and guest performers, bust out all the themed decorations, and break out our best book-themed t-shirts. All of this, of course, to the ultimate end of building in our young patrons a lifetime relationship with books.
However, sometimes the exercise feels a little bit recursive—we host summer reading programs to promote summer reading habits among… summer readers. Even in districts where libraries are able to offer fabulous incentives and prizes, this is of limited utility for reaching children who struggle with or avow that they “hate” reading. These are people we need to reach! To that end, I have collected ideas that you may utilize this summer or any other summer in order to make summer an inclusive experience for young people who just haven’t found their perfect book yet.Read more
A note before we begin: Please consider doing some research and creating community partnerships in your area with groups of people that perhaps don’t often feel welcome at a public library, such as learning difficulties support groups or your local center for the Deaf and hard of hearing. These populations historically have not been welcomed in reading spaces and it’s high time we did something about it.
- Change the title: Take the time to brainstorm alternatives to “Summer Reading Program.” You can substitute “Summer Reading” with “Summer Olympics!” or “Summer Adventure!” in order to telegraph that these are community events, not just read-a-thons. (Although a read-a-thon fundraiser does sound like a lot of fun.)
- Set Up Choral Reading Storytimes: Choral reading is a great strategy for young readers. It allows them to build fluency without pressure. Advertise a weekly choral reading program for K-3 and highlight the benefits.
- Workshop Storytelling Through Theater and Movement: Another great way to help kids embrace literature and stories! Easy enough to run if you have extroverted or silly staff, or you can find some community theater groups and dance troupes willing to help.
- Create Simple Printed Instructions for Parents to Download Audiobook Resources: Listening to audiobooks is still reading, and parents should know that. We want our readers who may have some difficulties decoding to have access to the great stories that are out there! As an evangelist of library audiobooks, I am often shocked by how few people know that we offer them via app.
- Center Programs Involving Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Kids love a graphic novel. Give the children what they want! In the process, you can educate their guardians about how comic books are real books and tie in tons of fun activities like Superhero Training Academy or Drawing Dog Man.
These are just a few of the many ideas and suggestions that have been highlighted to me since I started researching this blog post. Other equally fantastic ideas are: start a summer Dungeons & Dragons campaign, teach skills-learning drop-in programs, organize a teen teacher program where teens share their skills and talents with others, STEAM-focused programming, organize community volunteering programs and efforts, or start a community garden.
This article concerns ALSC Core Competencies on Outreach and Advocacy (Section V), which state, in part, that youth-centered librarians should focus on “eliminating barriers to library service for children based on socioeconomic circumstances, culture, privilege, language, gender, ability, and other diversities.”
Alex Aspiazu is an ALA 2020 Spectrum Scholar and member of the ALSC Public Awareness & Advocacy Committee. She works in the Youth Services department of a Washington D.C.-area public library.