Thursday, 23 February 2017

Summer Reading Programmes - Are you running them?

What a fantastic way of promoting Reading Engagement to your school community!

Getting books into homes.  
Getting students and family / whanau to read to each other.  
To read for pleasure.  
To read for learning.
To build relationships with your students and the school or local libraries.

A Summer Reading Programme can be as simple or as involved as you want to make it.

I had the pleasure of standing up in our school assembly today and talking about our 2016/2017 SRP.   We had 140 students participate this year and over 2,000 books issued.   That was so awesome!  Down from last year with 169 students participating, but still so awesome.  With our school roll already at 450 that is 1/3 of our students participating!!!   Everyone got a participation certificate.  And I got to hand out prizes!!!
There were three rules : 
  • It's got to be something you want to read (Hey, it's not homework!!!)
  • It's got to be something you can read, or have read to you.  
  • It's got to be something your parents let you read.  

Other than the fact the students were allowed to take 'around about 12' books home - give or take a few depending on how many they wanted  ;) ... the biggest excitement for many of them was being able to issue all the ultra-popular LEGO / Minecraft / Star Wars books that I keep as Reference so that all the kids in the school get to read them whenever they come into the library.   Excitement city!!!!  

Being a Primary School we really did need to put in the 'something your parents let you read' rule.  Most kids are really good at knowing if their family has a religious, cultural or other reason for not allowing certain reading material in the home.  When I tell students about it I make it sound funny ... like "if you're not allowed to read books about fluffy little bunny rabbits, then don't choose fluffy bunny rabbit books".  The parents get a laugh out of it, and the kids are quite eager to say if they are allowed or not allowed to read things.

We also run a photo competition.  Only three kids decided to enter this year.  Way down from last time (maybe because they had to make a scene from one of their favourite stories rather than just take a goofy photo of themselves reading somewhere wild & wacky).  And all three got a gift!  (That's even better than taking a vote on the most popular like we had to do last time).

Some of the other things I include for each student are: 
  • Black & White activities (colour copying isn't always necessary)
  • Bookmarks (always heaps of these lying around)
  • Gifts (if any have been donated).  This year it was pot-luck as to who got them.
  • Info about our eBook lending (as well as individual students log-in details in-case they, or their parents, have forgotten)
  • An info brochure explaining why summer reading is so valuable, as well as dates and contact info for returning the books.

Our PTA funded cloth bags two years ago.  These were so the kids (or is that parents!) could keep the books in an easy-to-find location, and made it a lot easier for carrying them around.  Much better than the plastic bags I found for our trial run.  More books.  Stronger bags.  And re-usable (most have been returned each year).  I've heard of some schools getting them printed which is pretty cool.  Ours are still plain though.

Last summer, 2015/2016, we decided to open for one day during the holidays so that students could swap-out their books if they wanted to.  We only had a very small handful of families come in so the management team decided this summer, 2016/2017, we would not offer the open day.  That was fine too.  If you read The Adventures of Library Girl 
post from 2012 she had the great idea of opening for a day each week.  

I've got to thank the Otago SLANZA 2014 Summer School for getting me to consider a SRP.  They had a really informative panel discussion titled 'Otago librarians do summer reading'.  This gave me some ideas to take back and I put a proposal to our school management team to 'trial' it with a couple of classes.  They agreed and 3 years later we are going strong with parents and teachers asking if we are doing it again.  It's amazing how word-of-mouth is such a strong promotion tool among the school families!

There was a great write-up in the SLANZA Collected #14 magazine after their Summer School from a Secondary School perspective.  Which just shows you that Secondary School students enjoy and benefit from SRP's as well.

SRP's are not just for school kids either.  They are for anyone!!!  I remember a few years ago the National Library prompted teachers and staff to opt-in for a 'surprise' selection of books to read.  That was fantastic because I got to try things I wouldn't have normally chosen.  

And just because you take a pile of books home to read - regardless of whether you are a student or staff - it doesn't mean you actually have to read them all.  I think it's quite often more about having the books 'on hand' so that if you feel tempted then they are RIGHT THERE!

So if you aren't doing a Summer Reading Programme yet in your school, why don't you give it a try?  It can be a simple or as involved as you want to make it.  The students and families / whanau will really appreciate what you are doing for them.  And it is another form of promoting Reading Engagement to our communities.

For more information about SRPs the National Library of New Zealand has some really great information available.