Summer reading is the most popular time of year for many public libraries. Thanks to their newfound free time and to our library’s expanded program offerings, kids and teens in my small town easily double their attendance here between June and August every year. Our special events are not just fun and games, however; my staff and I strive to incorporate an educational component to keep kids learning outside the classroom.
The educational benefits of some recurring programs are obvious. For example, our weekly summer storytimes sharpen literacy skills, and our craft sessions promote creativity and problem solving. Finding an educational tie-in for this year’s one-off events was slightly more challenging as we used Collaborate Summer Library Program’s themes of “On Your Mark, Get Set…Read!” and “Get in the Game: Read.”
Although the tie-in between sports and education was not immediately obvious, it worked well for us. The themes provided a great avenue to make learning fun. One of our most successful programs was a huge obstacle course; prior to letting the participants go through it, our presenter gathered them for a PowerPoint and discussion about the history of the Olympics. The kids loved the opportunity to compare their performances with the obstacles with Olympic events from years past. After the children completed the course, the presenter spoke about nutrition and started a related craft.
Another successful program was a visit from a search-and-rescue dog and its handler, a representative of New Jersey Search and Rescue. This presenter went over safety tips for hiking and how to handle getting lost, both important lessons that tied into our summer reading theme. Several children and their caregivers indicated afterwards that they wanted to read more about the topic of outdoor safety.
Even our Pokémon GO programming encouraged students to learn through exploring their neighborhoods. Participants also learned to work together towards a common goal as they hunted for Pokémon in the library. Similarly to our search-and-rescue program, many participants opted to further research the origin of the game and game development afterwards.
In an effort to appeal to more members, not all of our summer programming focused on the national theme. For example, we held an indoor planetarium event, in which participants could see constellations, planets, and more superimposed inside a large inflatable tent. This was one of our more obviously educational programs, as it taught the kids about astronomy; however, it was just as well attended as many of our sports-themed events.
Based on patrons’ feedback, this year’s summer program was a success. Kids not only had fun by reading and attending programs but also learned about topics they may not have been exposed to otherwise.
How have you incorporated learning into your library’s summer initiatives? Let us know in the comments.