A Summer Reading Reboot

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Teen SRP 2015 booklet - front cover

Can we just take a moment to reflect on the glory of the 2015 teen summer artwork? Oh, it was everything I’ve always dreamed of.

Anyways.

So every year previous, the summer reading program for teens was the ever-simple ‘fill out an entry form for each item you read’ sort of thing. Simple, I suppose, in that it doesn’t take a lot of work on (most) staff’s part, and it’s easy to explain. Annoying, however, in that counting how many entries were turned in from how many people was always an all-day, spread-out-throughout-the-room sort of day. So many piles! Not to mention the fact that I never really believed those teens who turned in more than twenty or so slips. In fact, to those teens, I want to say, if you weren’t just stuffing the box, please go outside and do something else! Watch some tv!

But perhaps that’s just me.

2015 become the year we finally Changed. We had wanted to turn our summer reading program into more of a summer ‘learning’ experience – which I am very much in favor of, since I think a teen needs to learn from many things, not just re-reading the 70-some issues of One Piece for the chance to win an iPad. Plus I think it’s far more fun to earn a prize rather than to try to win one.

The Teen Advisory Board was also on board, even though it meant the prizes had to be something small – there was no way each teen could get a t-shirt. This is what we talked about while creating our very first learning challenge:

  • There needed to be some sort of reading minimum – it didn’t seem fair to win everything just through the ‘experiences’, which I’ll talk about in a moment. They said that you should have earn at least two points in each box by reading – that way someone doesn’t just do a bunch of other stuff to start, and end up not reading anything.
  • Earning ‘points’ had to be reasonable, but still a challenge. They came up with 20, and you earned a prize after each five.
  • ‘Experiences’ needed to be varied – it didn’t seem fair to only reward those doing science experiments, when there’s plenty to learn from a nature hike or starting a Youtube channel. And they couldn’t all require money or transportation, as both are scarce in our community.
  • Some experiences could only be earned once (ie; you could only create one Youtube channel.)
  • Five manga should count as one book.
  • Prizes:
    • Five points: food coupon (Chipotle was by far the most popular)
    • Ten points: deck of playing cards
    • Fifteen points: drawstring backpack
    • Ten points: book and invitation to a special after-hours event

In the end, the TAB came up with or approved all the experiences, and the ‘reading experiences’ was completely their idea – after all, expanding your reading horizons is as important as anything else! The first time you completed a reading challenge, it was worth TWO points, meaning you could actually complete the entire learning challenge having read only four books (which was a big selling point to some of the more reluctant participants). That proved to be the hardest to explain to both staff and participants alike, but having someone walk away after registering asking ‘What’s a good audiobook to try?’ was fabulous.

The experiences:

  • Attend a library event
  • Attend a concert or play
  • Write/draw a graphic novel & enter our contest
  • Go on a nature hike
  • Visit a museum
  • Start a blog and create 5 entries of original content
  • Get a library card
  • Take a 5-10 mile bike ride
  • Write a book review and submit it to teencentral@wtcpl.org
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Conduct a science experiment
  • Visit a comic book shop
  • Watch a documentary
  • Create a Youtube channel and upload two original videos

Reading experiences:

  • Audiobook
  • Historical fiction
  • Poetry
  • Non-fiction
  • Graphic novel
  • Biography

In the end, we added a few experiences we hadn’t thought about: attending a festival, and watching ten episodes of subtitled anime (which we included as reading). Pictured at top is the cover of the summer  challenge booklet they received upon registering, while below is the inside and back cover.

Teen SRP 2015 booklet - left

Teen SRP 2015 booklet - right

Teen SRP 2015 booklet - back

All in all, it was a success. It was bit hard to determine what the participation would be, and therefore what prizes to purchase, but our numbers were up across the board, so I am happy! We’ll definitely be continuing it this year.

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