Myra Faye Turner, Writer
Each year millions of kids flock to the library to sign up for summer reading programs. They painstakingly log in the number of hours or books read and at the end of the program, they turn in their reading log and receive a prize. During the ensuing weeks between the kick- off and the culmination of the program, most libraries will offer weekly programs aimed at instilling the love of reading in kids, that hopefully, will last a lifetime. These programs are a great opportunity to keep kids engaged in reading activities during the summer months when experts estimate they lose some of what they have learned in school the previous year.
Although these programs are great, parents can create their own summer reading programs as a supplement to or in lieu of participating in the programs sponsored by your local library. Creating your own summer reading program is easy to do, read on to find out how.
During the planning phase, first decide on a launch date and determine how many weeks your program will run. You will also need to come up with some creative activities for the launch party and for each week of the program (or less, if necessary). You can find many exciting activities online or at your local library. Don’t forget about creating a reading log. This can be done easily in Excel or Word, or you can search the internet for free downloadable templates. Finally, plan your culminating event, buy or create a certificate of completion and decide which prizes will be given out at the end of the program.
Once, you have ironed out all the particulars, you’re ready for the big day. At the launch party, have participants (you can invite kids from the neighborhood, friends and relatives to participate) sign up for the program just like they would at the library. Have them sign a contract stating the number of hours or books they plan to read during the program. Provide each participant with a goody bag containing their reading log, a program event schedule and a few inexpensive items, like bookmarks, pencils, stickers, etc. Make sure each participant receives a book (or two) also. You can get inexpensive books from your local thrift shop. In fact, why not create your own mini library for participants to select books from!
You’ll want to have some fun activities and entertainment for the participant such as face-painting, quick games, and entertainment. Hint: Parents, you will probably be the entertainment. Ideas include acting out a favorite story, or putting on a puppet show. Why not have the participants face-paint themselves or each other, perhaps have a face-painting contest? Of course, you will want to offer snacks and depending on the number of participants you may want to have door prizes (make sure everyone wins something).
During your pre-planning you will have decided on each week’s activity. Now, it’s time to make it happen. You are limited only by your imagination. Of course, the ages of the participants will determine the types of activities but try to have fun with it. Kids (of all ages) love to see their parents having fun and enjoying themselves. One simple activity, that you can repeat each week, is to have a storytime but not in the traditional sense where someone sits down and reads a book and lulls everyone off to sleep (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). Select a book that encourages interaction or that can be performed either alone or with the aid of participants. After the story time, make sure to have an activity that ties in with the story. For example, take Green Eggs and Ham. Two adults (or an adult and a child participant) can bring the story to life with one person reading (or acting out) the part of Sam I am and the other person taking on the role of the other unnamed character. This is fun book to perform and a good book for emerging readers because of the repetition of key words. An accompanying activity might include cooking green eggs and ham or a green eggs and ham coloring sheet.
Weekly events might also include a field trip but with a tie-in to a book your child is reading or one you select. For example, you might want to plan a trip to your local zoo or museum. But before you go, have participants read about certain animals they are likely to encounter, or read about the artist in the current exhibit. After the field trip, encourage the participants to write about their experience or create a photo essay on what they saw.
All good things must end, and so must your summer reading program. At the culminating event, participants will turn in their reading log and receive their certificate and prizes. As you did in your launch party, you should have similar fun activities for the culminating party, along with prizes and snacks.
Extending the Program
Your kids may want to extend the program and if you have the energy and creativity, you should go for it. You can do it on a smaller scale, perhaps having your kids keep a reading log and creating activities based on books your kids are reading or ones you select. If weekly is taxing, have a monthly event. One idea is to select different cultures and read about them as a family and then create activities based on what you learn. For instance, you can create a craft, try a new recipe or take a field trip to learn more about a culture different from your own.