Counting Kids - Still Thinking About Summer Reading/Learning
It became clear pretty quickly that definitions of finishing ranged from counting the number of kids who signed up to the library setting a goal and counting the kids who reach it - and everything in between. It was also pretty apparent that each library takes an individual approach to SLP and the idea of any national benchmark beyond number of kids participating (and even that is shaky) is apples and zucchinis.
I have had my turn at this dance over the years. When we shared information with our schools, we kept careful excel sheet or database data that we updated each time a child returned. When we looked to increase usage by certain grade levels or from certain schools, we loved our stats - and used 'em. When we handed incentives along the way or created a goal, we kept track to see when kids hit that level. I have been stat bound on some level most of my career.
But this summer I watched as colleagues at my former library dispensed altogether with sign-ups. When children registered they put a sneaker on a pillar. Throughout the program, kids could pick up weekly activity sheets. Both methods used the "count back" strategy to arrive at numbers. You know how many sneaker cut-outs you began with and count what you have leftover to determine sign-up numbers (1000 sneakers; 25 left = 975 kids starting the program). You have 300 copies of a weekly activity sheet and at the end of the week you have 10 = 290 kids participated that week.
This took the pressure and onus off the staff and provided less widgeting for kids. Since the library went prizeless a few years ago (except for a book for the kids) and seldom used stats on grade level or school, this was a simple evolution. Kids earned a book this summer after returning once and a "Summer Reader Lives Here" yard sign when they self-reported a 5th return visit.
Record keeping and definitions of success can be administration/board driven or an internal call to crazy stat keeping. But when we break down what we really - no I mean, REALLY - need in stats we gather (whether in-house or online), it may become clear that we are over-asking kids and over-working staff for returns that have no larger meaning.
Finding ways to simplify the process of getting the numbers we need (kids signed up; average participation rate) can take some real stress out of a busy time and carve needed time to reach out and really interact with kids and families. And seems worth the change!