Summer Reading Program at our church

We developed a summer reading program we're calling Berean's (name of our church) Book Bingo.

We have three groups - Beginner (3-gr. 2), Intermediate (gr. 3-6) and Teen (gr. 6-12).  I made a different Bingo card for each group; the first two have 25 squares and the Teen card has 20.  In each square three there is a  different genre or category of book, for example for the Beginner one it includes, among others, Animal story, Bible story, Easy Reader, Author A-D,  etc. The others include things like non-fiction, classic, mystery, biography, chapter of the Bible, etc. When the child completes a row or column, they get a prize, and when they finish the whole card they get a slightly better prize.

They also track how many pages they've read, and how many minutes they've read (although the Teens only do pages). At the end we'll give a prize for most pages and most minutes in each of the age groups.

Adults can also sign up - either to read aloud, or to read for themselves. There will be a prize for each of those categories, too.

At the end, we'll have an ice cream party and give out the "most whatever" prizes. For prizes, we have a couple of grab baskets full of trinkets from Oriental Trading that little kids love, and we  have spent months getting coupons from area businesses. Some are worth a lot (ie Subway gave us 10 coupons, each good for a 6" sub) and others are smaller (ie a kid/s cone at Ritter's) so we're doling them out appropriately according to age and accomplishment.

We began our sign-ups this past Sunday, and will continue for two more weeks.  Then the reading program officially begins on June 7, which is when participants can pick up their Bingo cards and reading records, and start reading.  The program will run through August 2, and we'll have our end-of-program ice cream party on the 3rd. 

We've never done anything like this before and I'm curious to see how it works out!  I'm pretty happy with how it all came together and I hope our families enjoy it.

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Comment by Pamela Bender on June 23, 2015 at 2:19pm

I like your suggestions, especially the all-church emails. Our library is small, but we have an ideal location between the office and Sunday school wing, also adjacent to one of three main entries, so we have great visibility. Double doors which we make sure are wide open every Sunday with colorful posters. We have a long, low row of shelves under a bank of windows as you walk into the room with a vibrant display of kids books. With the library in limbo for those years, our collection is a little dated, but we have really strived to add some fun new materials. I think part of our 'problem' is really a time thing. Our library is just now 'up and running' again after the passing of our longtime librarian 4 years ago. We have some fun things planned this next year (our 25th birthday!), and your comments tell me kids are still reading, which gives me great hope and encouragement! Thank you!

Comment by Debbie Dehart on June 23, 2015 at 1:46pm
Update: We have about 75 people signed up and around 24 of them are adults. The kids are fairly evenly divided between the various ages. I'm not sure how many are actually participating at this point, but our circulation is roughly double what it usually is! We have a few kids who haven't been big readers before who are loving it and coming back every time they are in the building to get more books. Areas of the library which were virtually ignored are being used, which was one of our goals! and some people who never used to come, are now using it - another of our goals. I'm sure this will all taper off once the program is over (and to be honest, that would be okay because our work load sure has increased!!) but for now, it's great and people are having a good time.
Comment by Debbie Dehart on June 23, 2015 at 1:44pm
Pamela, it sounds like you're up against a bit of a wall there - but I think you have some good ideas to try to get things moving. Having the SS classes come is a good idea, and so is story time. We started doing a preschool story time during the SS hour about a year ago and it is going pretty well. We have a different group - K, 2yo, 3yo and 4 yo come each week, and we read to them for about 10-15 minutes, depending on their age. We have a few volunteers who usually do it, with one of us on the committee filling in when needed.
What is your children's collection like? Does it have newer books in it? Is there any way you can feature some books in a visible spot, like in the hallway, to try to draw people in? Is your library tucked away, or obvious? I think one thing that helps us is that our library is right by one of the entrances, at the end of the main foyer outside the sanctuary. So loads of people walk right by it when they enter or leave the building. The library is not that big, so we often use the hallway right outside to display books or events.
You might also consider, next year, going to the various SS classes, both kids' and the adult classes where their parents attend, and talking about the library- what you have to offer, and the details of the summer reading program you're planning to have. Also, does your church have a facebook group, or does your church do all-church emails? Those can be good ways to promote what you're doing, also.
Comment by Pamela Bender on June 23, 2015 at 1:37pm

Our SRP is not going so well. This is my first year as 'head' librarian (a term I use loosely as I have no professional training), after the post remained empty for 4 years after the passing of our former librarian. I served on the library committee for 20 years under her leadership, and set up our program much like we had done in the past even though the last few years had seen a decline of participants. We set a theme -hot air ballons, give prizes throughout for entry, reading 1, 5, 10 and the most books, as well as a final, return your books prize. Eight children are entered but so far only 2 are actually taking part. As we hadn't had a reading program for 4 years, we really pulled out the stops for promoting, one of our congregants is a graphic designer, with power point, vibrant posters, bulletin, newsletter, website, and weekly update notices, and pulpit announcements to little avail. But one of the first things I noticed after being absent for 4 years, is that kids just weren't checking out books. We have plans to promote it during day camp in a few weeks, and VBS later this summer. This Fall we're planning on bringing SS classes to tour our library and possibly for a story hour, repeating the same in the Spring. I hope these things will help get next year's SRP off the ground!

Comment by Debbie Dehart on May 27, 2015 at 5:15pm

Debbie - I agree that not giving prizes till the end of the program would be too long for little ones to wait.  Giving prizes for goals accomplished along the way keeps them motivated, which is why we set ours up that way.

Also, this might motivate them to actually participate and keep that reading record!  Having a "grand" prize at the end for the child who read the most pages or minutes might also inspire them.

Comment by Debbie on May 26, 2015 at 1:24pm

I usually, I don't want to say 'dread' Summer Reading but it's something I procrastinate about. After reading your article, I'm excited. I love some of your ideas and will print this for next year. The only thing I have decided on so far is "Tall Tales by Muriel Lovestrand". She is a precious 90 year old lady (and former Missionary) that can captivate an audience in no time. The Children love her in VBS but she hasn't done the Mission stories in a few years so I thought it would be good to have her tell her 'tall tales' from some of the Children's Library books on a Saturday Morning each month. I usually give prizes at the end of August but I think that is too long for some of the younger readers to stay with the program, so I may give them out more frequently. I have not planned ahead for this and the prizes usually come out of 'yours truly's' pocket. I may recruit some of my faithful patrons to donate prizes. I have more adults than children that are now reading, but last year I couldn't get them to participate. They checked out the usual books but nobody wanted to keep a list of what they read. More planning needed ASAP! Can't you tell? But sometimes I work better doing last minute promotions. 

Comment by Almyra W. Johnson on May 24, 2015 at 12:22pm

Sounds wonderful! I can appreciate all the work you have already done, and more to come, but will be so rewarding! Thanks for sharing!


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