Shaking Up SLP - Questions


Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. This series of  posts looks at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Where are we going and how do we get where we want to be? That's a question I ask myself all the time - and most especially, in thinking about summer library programs. Two decades ago, I felt like we were on a treadmill of summer madness - how could we get off and change how we did the program to a model that was fun and worthwhile for kids and staff?

The people I worked with joined me in asking questions and looking at the answers as well as the hopes we had. It has led to twenty years of reformatting and evolving the way we do SLP and that change has been part of our planning in every job I've had ever since.

It starts with questions for which no one answer exists. Each library is unique in how the library and community come together. Here's a few questions and some suggestions on what you might do to guide your change process towards making SLP more meaningful at your library.

Begin (or continue) to ask questions:
                Are you reaching the age groups you want?
                Running registrations for storytimes or events that add to workload?
                Constant programming or could you add more breaks?
                Are programs generating increased use/circ by kids?
                Is your registration or reading record process cumbersome?
                Is what you are doing fitting in with library goals or school goals?
                Are the kids focusing on reading or prizes?
                How competitive do you want your program to be?

Think about what you are doing now and why you are doing it :          
* it satisfies kids
*you've always done it this way
* it satisfies you                                                   
* it satisfies parents
* it works
* it doesn’t work but staff or administration REALLY like it

Think about your goals and the outcomes you want  and how they can be accomplished. 

                             For instance, if you want to:

1)  Reach out to as many kids as possible?
In person contact to spread the word on SLP is vital (School promo visits/spring school visits or class visits)
Cooperate with PTOs to spread word
                Get info to schools (bookmarks) prior to parent teacher conferences
                Involve families (parents, preschoolers & readers in program to spread the word)
                Spread the word at other community spots where kids are: child care centers, Boys and Girls's Clubs etc 

2)  Give the kids a fun experience
                Simplify paperwork so focus is on kids who come in, not busywork
Take time for events you and kids enjoy (booktalking; programs); cut down on other unnecessary programs or requirements 
                Experiment with the theme and delivery – or not - of prizes or rewards

3)  Get the kids reading:
                Do lots of reader’s advisory special displays
                Let kids review books
                Do lots of “seat-to-feet” service rather than hugging the desk
                Create experiences that put kids and books together (books at programs for check-out; stealthy games)

  4) Make the program low-stress for kids           
                De-emphasize or eliminate competitive aspects (most books read, etc)
                Let kids read at own pace and in own interest areas
                Consider library use and experiential activities within the library as an achievable outcome
                Allow a break from school-year type demands
                Let kids read at various levels and formats
                Recognize the importance of being read to for preschooler & poor readers
   5) Make the program low-stress for staff             
                Keep record keeping simple
                Think about whether elements like oral reports; genre reading; prizes are necessary to the successful       
                      accomplishment of encouraging kids to read in the summer 
               Look for ways to encourage cooperation with the community or schools to support kids & reading (mutual 
                       booklists; beginning of school rewards; programs; Park & Rec)

6) Be creative, inventive and have fun                
                Recognize that libraries are more than books
                Embrace the many formats (inc. digital) and ways that kids come to literacy - it isn't just about reading
                Picture yourself as a promoter and less as a record keeper
                Imagine yourself as marketing guru and your product as reading
                Give yourself permission to innovate

Finally, learn when to say when!
It’s important to recognize when elements of your program are no longer effective and to begin planning to change

Evaluate your program:
                Bring staff & volunteers together in a party/meeting
                Establish parent/child focus group to talk about summer
                Talk to school colleagues for scuttlebutt on SLP
                 Don’t be afraid to end elements that no longer work or seek innovative solutions

How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power
Shaking Up SLP - School Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen


  1. We started from the ground up last year, as my colleagues and I were simply OVER how SRP was done here in the past (tshirts! confusing logs! recording time! crappy prizes!). We streamlined it even more this year...receive a book at sign up and read whatever you want to every day, then turn in a weekly log for chances to win gift cards. All we have to do is plan our weekly programs and we're already done with summer planning. And it's only February! Hell yeah!

  2. I am working on redesigning our SRP. It is a sticky situation because the program hasn't been working for the younger participants and I focus on the older grades, so it is hard for me to be as vocal about it as I want to be.

  3. We have found that our local school uses Peachjar (eflyers) to reach parents who have children in our public schools. They will allow us to send in pdf format announcements of programs for youth only, but we hope it will help get the word out instead of the traditional paper handouts for the children to take home re: Summer Reading.