As the middle of May rolls around, there is a feeling of excitement in the air! As a student, you have that antsy feeling knowing summer is around the corner and there are only a few weeks until your freedom. As a teacher, you are tired and stressed, just counting down the days until the last finals are complete and grades are posted. But as a librarian, you are gearing up for the peak time of year—Summer Reading! Programs are being prepared, prizes are being ordered, and school visits are being scheduled.
School visits can get tricky, especially at the Middle School level. Visiting the school is the public librarian’s way to encourage and invite the students to participate in Summer Reading. With a grand spiel on the greatness of our programs and the wonderful prizes that may be won just by reading, our goal is to lure preteens and teens to the library during their summer away from school, books, and learning. Unfortunately, unlike Elementary School students who are excited for Summer Reading, Middle Schoolers are at an age where they are sometimes too cool to participate. Those who are regular readers don’t admit it and those who aren’t can be difficult to convince even with prizes.
So in order to make what can be an awkward situation into a best case scenario, here are some guidelines. First things first, work with the school media specialist or librarian and establish a good rapport. The time constraints of the school’s schedule must be observed which means working around lunches, special activities, early dismissals, and final exams. Flexibility is essential! By accommodating the school’s needs and schedule, the more willing they will be to meet your goals and agenda.
Be sure to visit the school early enough to provide summer reading information to the school and the students but not so early that they may forget about it. The best time for a visit is usually during the last two weeks of May. This is time enough to spark an interest and allow teachers to promote summer reading. By reminding teens that the required reading they will be doing over the summer counts towards their reading logs, they will be encouraged to participate.
At the school, there are a few tips to keep in mind for a successful Summer Reading Visit. First, attention spans are short so make your presentation to the point and concise. It will surprise you how much information can be fit into ten minutes. And frankly, after the first 10 minutes, it is quite possible that many of the teens are lost to you anyway.
Second, don’t just limit your presentation to talking about library programs, take an example! Students get lectured at all day in school. In order to gain their attention and tempt them to come to one of your well-planned programs, bring something cool and engaging to show them. Are you planning a Star Wars crafternoon? Bring a lightsaber craft example. Doing a cool STEM program on robotics? Take the robots along with you to pique interest. Any tangible item that may get them thinking is a great way to pull them in.
Third, don’t just mention your prizes…talk them up! If your teens are anything like the ones I work with, they want to know “What’s in it for me?” Their time is precious and if there isn’t something in it for them that they think is worthy, then forghedaboudit. So whatever you have as prizes, be it gift cards, movie passes, or specialized gift baskets make them sound so good, the teens are left salivating!
And last but not least, remind the teens that Summer Reading isn’t just about books. As soon as the students hear that you came to talk about Summer Reading, there may be a portion of them that tune out immediately. BUT….if you let them know that reading also includes graphic novels, comic books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and fanfiction then… Hold up! You have just raised some attention.
“You mean, I can read my favorite gaming blog online and that counts towards my Summer Reading?”
“And I can possibly win a gift card if I sign up?”
“You sure can!”
“Well, sign me up!!”
That is all it takes! Keeping your presentation upbeat, engaging, and to the point, enables you to draw in students and encourage participation in your Summer Reading Program. What tips do you have for successful school visits to promote your Summer Reading program?