Gird Your Loins: Summer Reading Begins!

As I was making the daily schedules this week for our children’s department, I wrote the phrase “Gird Your Loins: Summer Reading Begins” across the top.  Highlighted in yellow.

In our library, Summer Reading sign-up is no joke.  It is a level-five, all-out, nonstop event that is both physically and mentally demanding.  Case in point: yesterday we signed up well over 200 kids within the first six hours!  And we don’t expect that rate to slow down until at least the end of the week.

This onslaught- that has us speaking ourselves raspy after hours of talking about books, prizes, and passports, this torrent of activity that has us sneaking a quick lunch on the fly before jumping back into the fray alongside our comrades, this circuslike atmosphere that has us gasping for breath at the end of our day- this is the fruit of our labors from the past few weeks.  Believe it or not, this is exactly how we like it!

Since May, the Children’s Library team has been visiting every class, every child in town in order to get them riled up and excited beyond belief about Summer Reading.  Imagine that.  Mere days after school lets out, instead of riding bikes, or heading out to the beach, or playing a round of Wii, or signing into their Poptropica accounts, hundreds of children and families flock to the public library to sign up for a program that celebrates reading.  I’ve witnessed children literally running (running!) into the library, crowding around the info desk, tiny hands wringing in anticipation.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll sign up hundreds of kids, give out hundreds of free books, award dozens of cool prizes, and recommended tons of truly awesome summer reads.  And while statistics, sign-up numbers, and door counts can give us definitive proof, our sure sign of success is simply leaving each day totally exhausted and bleary-eyed.  When we librarians are all tuckered out and need a nap, it’s been a job well done!

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Kid blogger!

So, a couple of weeks ago my library launched our Summer Reading program and we have been pretty much swallowed up in a storm of sign ups, giveaways, and answering questions about how to win prizes, which are the best books for X grade, etc., etc.  It’s been a blast!  (A tiring, sometimes physically draining blast, but good fun all the same.)  Among one of the kids to sign up was a boy who said something during the sign-up process that sent my little blogger antennae straight up.   Continue reading

Summer Reading Party Planning, Or “The Road to BugStravaGanza”

In 6 days, 23 hours, and 16 minutes (approximate time at the writing of this post) over sixty children- ranging in ages toddler to tween- will desend on my library for two-and-a-half hours of crazy, silly, gross, potentially sticky, and definitely messy fun!  Next Tuesday is our Summer Reading Party aka the “BugStravaGanza!” 

I’ve been planning the party events since summer began but really haven’t done much until this week.  Some might call it procrastination.  I call it time-induced inspiration.  I have all the games and activities planned out and most of the cardboard cutouts, games pieces, signs, and whatnots already constructed.  I even bought the snacks! 

I’ll be using the big events format (learned/stolen from my friend, mentor, and fellow children’s librarian extraordinaire Jolie) that worked so well for my Clementine Party (back in ’07) and the Valentine’s Day celebration “Babymouse [hearts] Captain Underpants” (last V-day).  The “big event format” works like this:

Every game, activity, craft, or snack table is a “station” and every station is assigned a color.  So, the table with the board game “Ants in the Pants” is the Red Station.  That table will get a red tablecloth, and red signage.  The “Buggy Bingo” table is the Blue Station.  That table will get a blue tablecloth and blue signage.  And so it goes.  As every child enters the party, they receive a necklace with colored tickets attached- one ticket for every station.  The child “pays” for the game or activity with the corresponding colored ticket.  In this way, everybody gets to do everything once, the Station Leaders can easily see what Stations each child has left to visit (just look at their necklaces), and no one game or activity gets bombarded by too many kids at a time.

The past events organized in this way have worked wonderfully.  The party tends to flow better, kids and parents are able to enjoy themselves without worrying that they’ll miss out on something, and the volunteers running the stations have a sense of control admist the chaos. 

For BugStravaGanza!, we are doing Ants in the Pants (I bought the board game), Spider’s Dinner (Same as Pin the Tail on the Donkey but with a spider and flies.  I made it from old pieces of cardboard, glitter, and colored pictures), and Buggy Bingo (I found the templates for the bingo cards here).

We’ll have a Grub Station which will feature such culinary delights as Ants on a Log (pretzels dipped in honey with raisins on top), Worms N’ Dirt (smashed oreos with gummy worms), and Nectar (apple juice).   There will also be an Imagination Station- a table with crayons, coloring sheets, word searches, connect-the-dots activites, and stuff for the kids to do when they are either waiting for a game to start or finished visiting all the stations. 

As you may have noticed, the above activities are primarily desinged for children over three.  That’s why this year I’m adding a section just for babies and toddlers.  Tucked in a corner near the action but separated by some benches will be a few mats strewn with toys and easy games for the littlest summer readers.  There will be a simple shape and color matching game, as well as jumbo sized crayons and paper for the toddlers to play with.  The Leader for this area will be equipped with a bubble gun, some puppets, and plenty of enthusiasm.

Every child will leave with a goodie bag (assorted prizes, stickers, and a free book) and there will be two raffles for “Mystery Bags” (they’ll contain nice hardcover books and some of the higher end prizes).  On their way out, the children will receive their Summer Reading Certificates with many congratulations for a summer of great reading.

I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and post a recap next week!

“Is That the Reading Bug?”

So I’m back from my trip to Colorado and I was back at work almost (save for a delayed flight) immediately.  I had my usual Tuesday afternoon storytime program.  As the kids were settling in and I was chit-chatting with a few of my regulars, one of them pointed to a low bookshelf.  There, in the corner, was a large dead cockroach.  (I surmised that it was dead since it was on its’ back, legs up in the air).

A little boy, “Jack”, who is a regular at my programs and has been excitdedly participating in the Summer Reading program for the past few weeks looked at me without the slightest trace of sarcasm and deadpanned, “Is that the Reading Bug?”

It’s good to be back.  🙂