Thinking of switching things up this summer? Maybe you’re done with those boring old “read for 30 minutes and get a cheap toy” chart? Or maybe you’re still exploring your options. Last summer, I did! And while it was just a few years ago, you would have never caught me promoting anything but reading for Teen Summer Reading charts, I have changed my ways, fellow librarians, and maybe it’s time we all do too. Of course, reading should still be at the front of TSU but the library as we know it is continuing to evolve and with it comes the evolution of summer reading.
Traditionally, summer reading is about reading x amount of books, or reading x amount of pages, or reading for x amount of minutes and getting prizes for doing so. But can Teen Summer Reading charts be more than just that? Yes!
Last summer I decided to do a shift in the traditional “read five books and get a prize” route that my library had previously done. I took queues from my children’s librarians and their chart and made something new. The children’s chart was very open ended and gave kids tons of choice. Reading was at the core of the chart and getting out into your community was too.
This is my chart from last year. The best part? The chart still allows readers of every level to complete it. This also relieves the “But my child is an 8 year old genius and should do the teen chart!” Teens still have the freedom to choose while we continue to keep the grade/age levels separate. Your 8 year old wants to read War and Peace over the summer? Awesome!
After getting feedback from my end of summer reading survey, my TAB group, and by just seeing how the chart worked over the summer, I realized I went a little overboard. Teens earned raffle tickets for each box they completed, which took way too much time to fill out, and received a free book of their choice after any eight boxes were completed. My end of the summer survey showed that while the teens loved the chart way more than “read any five books,” they too thought the raffle tickets took too long to fill out and that, weirdly, playlist was confusing. They’re favorites? Read a book of your choice and read a book in your favorite place.
For this summer, I’ve made things simpler.
Please note that this is not the final chart! However, it does have all the boxes that will be used. Teens will need to complete any 10 boxes to earn their free book and be entered into the raffle for the grand prize and other prizes. For an added challenge, if they choose to complete all 15 boxes they’ll get a second book and a second raffle entry.
So what are the prizes? Books! Seriously, at every single library I have ever worked at (granted it’s been only 3), every year their favorite prize is the free book of their choice. After talking about prizes to my TAB members, they all panicked at the end of the conversation and said “WAIT! There’s still going to be books, right???? Oh thank goodness!”
Raffle! Gone are the gimmicky trinkets like water bottles, pens, etc. I’ve found that while tweens are still into them, older teens feel like it’s a waste. And I feel like it’s money down the drain. Last year I picked out prizes myself, but this year my TAB board helped. They liked the idea of doing a gift card from Amazon and then having lots of fun mini prizes for others to win. Here are some of the prizes that they chose:
In the end, how did everything work out? Well, the difference is in the numbers. While the number of sign ups were down from the previous year, the finishing rate from was up 10%. Listen to your teens! If your numbers aren’t great, find out what’s not working and maybe it’s time to switch things up.
Questions? Comments? Have you tried changing your TSU charts? Let us know in the comments!
School Library Journal came out with an amazing article earlier this month about the shift in summer reading programming. If you have the chance, read it! While it talks less about summer reading charts, it shows how libraries are shifting in what we provide for programming during the summer. Gone are the crafts and puppet shows. Say hello to STEAM classes and more hands on learning.