Getting Teens Involved in Summer Programming

When I started making the myriad reading logs necessary for our summer reading program (SRP), I knew I’d need a zillion copies of the kids’ log, probably several hundred of the log for the adults, but it was hard to figure out how many teen logs I’d need. The teen sign ups are never anywhere near the amount of sign-ups for the children, but I even had more adults signed up for SRP than I did teens. How can we get more teens involved in the summer reading program? 

  1. Visit their schools to promote summer reading. Perhaps you set up a table in the cafeteria or in the hallway before school. Perhaps you catch them by visiting their English classes. Whatever you do, make sure you visit them at school where you have a captive audience and can reach the kids who may not stop by the library on a regular basis.
  2. Allow them to register early. Maybe you can even do this while you’re at their school. If you can work with the librarian or the teachers, you could arrange for teens to sign up in their classes. Some teachers may even give their students extra credit for doing this, or for bringing in a completed log at the end of summer.
  3. Emphasize the things that count for your program. I make sure to tell teens that the time they spend reading the required summer list from school counts for our program, too, as does listening to audiobooks, reading to younger siblings, reading articles or fan fiction or gaming magazines. Some teens think that only reading novels will count, so they automatically assume that SRP is not for them. Dispel that rumor early and often.
  4. Make the prizes appealing. If you hand out prizes, make sure at least some of them are teen-friendly. Gift cards work really well for this. My teens also appreciate fandom-related items and food, so a basket containing a movie theater pass, a POP figure, and some candy will go a long way in motivating teens to be involved.
  5. Get teens involved in the planning. I ask our teen advisory board what types of programs they would like to have in the summer, and I make sure we do have at least one of their requested events. If possible, I have the teens themselves do the planning and run the program. When they take ownership, they are more likely to show up and also to invite their friends.
  6. Count volunteer hours. Our reading log has squares for time spent reading, but also squares for doing different activities, and one of the suggested activities is volunteering. I always emphasize to my teens that they can come help me at a program and count that toward finishing their log. This benefits both of us: I get extra hands to help me out, and they get to finish their log faster.

What types of things do you do to keep teens involved in your summer programming?

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