Last week I attended the Public Library Association (PLA) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I took a lot of notes, and I wanted to share what I learned at the session called Better Together: Maximizing the Impact of Your Summer Reading Program.
This session, hosted by librarians Faith Brautigam and Denise Raleigh, and elementary school principal Steve Johnson, outlined how the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Illinois partnered with the local school to increase both enrollment and completion of their summer reading program. It turned into a community-wide summer reading program.
Get started thinking about partnership opportunities by answering the following questions about your community:
- What places or events attract kids in your community?
- Who are the high level local school officials?
- Which local organizations have an interest in school success?
- Which local organizations serve low-income kids?
- Who works with low-performing students in the summer?
Regardless of who you are hoping to partner with, the presenters stressed the importance of the following:
- Find incentives that will motivate non-readers – They were able to get a local carnival to donate free ride wrist bands for all the kids who completed the program.
- Get the schools to help “push” enrollment – Registration starts before school lets out for the summer. The elementary school principal made participation an expectation, using the auto-call system at the school to call and remind kids to sign up and even making personal follow-up calls himself. They are considering having registration at the school next year and extending the finish deadline a few days after school starts to make one last push.
- Identify organizations that help at-risk kids – The library also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club. Low-income students are more likely to have a decrease in reading skills over the summer.
- Get community buy-in – Make it fun for families and get local businesses to help promote the program. Elgin asked businesses to name promotions they would already be running anyway after the summer reading program theme to help keep everyone in town “on message.”
- Have organizational empathy – Keep in mind the challenges the organization is facing and focus your proposal to work together on how this partnership will benefit them. For a school partnership, maintaining reading skills will mean better test scores and less remedial work in the fall.
If you are hoping to partner with your school, they suggest using academic terminology to help make your case. Note how reading over the summer can help combat the “summer slide” and help students maintain “adequate yearly progress,” as teachers don’t want their students to lose ground over the summer. They recommended research by Richard Allington and Harris Cooper.
They also suggested making participation and completion a competition between schools. In North Dakota, this might mean a competition between cities due to our small populations, but it would be a great way to partner and build relationships with a neighboring library!
Slides for this session can be viewed on the list of PLA Programs. Scroll down and it’s the first session listed under the 9:15AM time slot on Saturday, March 15.
Who have you partnered with to help increase participation in your summer reading program? Share your suggestions in the comments!