Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Passive Programs Too Good to Pass Up

Whether you are a school librarian getting ready for the end of the year or a public librarian gearing up for summer reading, late spring is a busy time in children’s services. Passive programs are a great way to keep kids and families engaged when you have more things on your to-do list than hours in the day. 

Reader’s Advisory – Flipped

When Chloe Foulk started working at the Edmondson branch of Enoch Pratt Free Libraries in Baltimore, Maryland, she wanted to get to know the kids in the community and to become familiar with the library’s children’s collection. So she came up with a way to do both: Chloe invited kids to recommend books for her to read with her cat, Nate Jr. She then took a photo of her cat with each book and posted the cat’s reviews. As Chloe shared the photos and reviews, more kids got excited to give their recommendations. 

I borrowed Chloe’s idea when I started my position at the Potomac branch of Montgomery County (MD) Public Libraries, asking the kids to recommend books for me to read to my cat, Sidney. The kids loved getting to share their favorite books, and I loved getting to know the kids a bit through their recommendations. 

Taking photos and writing reviews of each book can be time consuming (especially if you have an uncooperative cat), but you could simplify things by only taking photos or only posting the recommendations, without a response from your pet. 

No pet? You could easily adapt this idea to use with a stuffed animal, a school or local athletics mascot, or a curmudgeonly family member. 

Kids’ Choice

As just noted, kids like to share their opinions. Give them an opportunity, and they’ll do the rest. For the past two years, I’ve done a March Madness-style bracket competition, with kids voting on their favorite children’s characters. I start with 16 popular characters and then pit each character against another, for a total of 8 matches. Each week, the kids can vote on their favorites. The winners from each week then face off against each other in subsequent weeks, until a final winner emerges (this year our winner was Bluey, in a tight race against Llama Llama). 

This type of passive program does require some time to set up, but it then takes little effort once it gets going. Everyone–the kids, parents, and staff–were excited to check for the results when they came into the library. 

If participation starts off slow, you could offer an incentive, such as inviting the winning character to an upcoming library program, dressing up as the winning character yourself, or hosting a screening of a TV show or movie that features the winner. (For the last option, you’ll want to make sure that you only include characters that you have streaming rights for.) 

This same bracket-type competition could be used with many other themes: books, ice cream flavors, Taylor Swift eras, Pokemon characters, and so on. 

You can also simplify this type of passive program by removing the brackets and doing a straightforward vote-for-your-favorite poll. A word of warning: Once you start offering kids a chance to vote, you may not be able to stop–because the kids won’t let you! They’ll be eager to cast their vote each time they come to the library. 

A former colleague of mine often reminded us to work smarter, not harder. Passive programs are a smart way to get kids excited about the library–without adding to your already overflowing plate. 

Lisa Bintrim is a member of the ALSC School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She’s the head of children’s services at the Potomac branch of the Montgomery County (MD) Public Libraries. 

One comment

  1. Sarah

    These are fabulous ideas and now I really want to do the review with my cat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *