Shaking Up SLP - Creating the Zen

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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. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Our guest today is Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, a colleague at LPL who joined our team last August. Kelsey is a thoughtful, let's-work-on-this-together visionary who is active on the Friends of the CCBC board and in library work. Before she joined us here she worked in a library in a small community (pop. 5000) in WI. In this post she shares thoughts about the path to change in your SLP based on a workshop she did for librarians in our system.

What comes to your mind when you think about SLP? Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also a busy time of year, and sometimes stressful – for you, for other library staff, and sometimes even for patrons. While SLP maybe never be a smooth, stress-free zone, we can do a lot to make it easier on ourselves and everyone around us.

Let’s start by considering what we’re really trying to achieve - what YOU are really trying to achieve at your library. Promoting reading during the summer, of course. But what do you aspire to when it comes to your own SLP? Spreading the word about the importance of early literacy, and getting parents with babies to participate? Showing middle-grade readers that books can be funny and interesting? Just getting more people in the door? Being thoughtful about what YOU want to do with YOUR SLP will give you purpose, common staff goals, and direction. The Harwood Institute, currently partnering with ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, has a great worksheet on thinking about aspirations. Though the worksheet has a broader community focus, it can easily be adjusted to focus on SLP.

Another important step is to simplify. Do we really need so many sheets and rules and procedures when it comes to participation? Do we really need so many prizes and incentives to get kids to read? Or can we come up with ways to keep SLP fun and fresh and literacy-focused without jumping through so many hoops? Last summer, at my previous library, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make SLP work better for patrons and more sustainable for ourselves. We simplified procedures, reduced unnecessary elements, and cut way back on incentives. The results were that kids continued their  enthusiastic participation, parents were happy to have less plastic junk, and staff had a much easier time registering participants, explaining the program, and answering questions. Streamlining made everyone happy. Making things less complicated doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy or letting our patrons down. It means we’re being realistic about what we can accomplish, and being thoughtful about sustainable practices.

Finally, let’s talk about prizes. Lots of libraries use them, and that’s okay. There is no prize-shaming here. But are there better ways for us to use incentives when it comes to SLP? I’ve recently noticed several libraries changing the way they incentivize SLP, with fantastic results. Some are thinking about ways they can incorporate altruism, with the “prize” being a Friends-funded donation to a community organization of the child’s choice. Some are giving away books as an incentive. Some are doing away with prizes altogether, focusing on recognition and activity. This past summer in La Crosse, kids could add a sticker to help cover a paper robot on the wall. Research shows that extrinsic motivation, which is the drive to do something because of an external reward, is far less effective than intrinsic motivation, which drives us to do something because we love it. Prizes tap into extrinsic motivation, and while that’s not bad, I believe we can find more effective ways to get kids engaged in literacy. Ways that remind them reading is a fantastic experience in itself.

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 - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power

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