The summer is nearly half done (!), and only now do I have time to discuss what we did to promote our library's summer learning club (SLC). We wanted to reach every child in the district with information about SLC and encourage them to participate, not only because this program is designed for them, but also because our budget is tied to the statistics we keep regarding participation in programs. I won't cite all the articles about how reading helps kids not lose what they've learned when they get the summer off; the Google will show you how to find those.
But how do you give kids a spiel about SLC without it sounding boring? And how do you keep their attention long enough? We planned to do assemblies at each elementary school with a thirty-minute assembly for the K-2nd kids and a similar assembly for the 3rd-5th grade kids. Now we had to find a way to keep the attention of several hundred children of various ages and attention spans for thirty minutes.
Our department decided to do a skit for the beginning of our assembly. Our SLC theme is Read to the Rhythm, so one of my colleagues was cast as a rock star, one as the rock star's "roadie," and I was a bored kid (basically so I could wear my Minecraft shirt to work and call it good). The bored kid comes out from backstage and says, "I'm bored. It's summer, and my friends are on vacation, and my DS ran out of batteries" etc. etc. The rock star then hustles out in a hurry. S/he is on the way to the library, and the bored kid has a discussion with the rock star about what might be going on at the library. The skit concludes with the bored kid deciding that summer would not be boring if s/he went to the library. It was fun and included silly jokes as well as information about all of our programs.
The second half of our assembly was a music guessing game. We asked the teachers to send up one volunteer from each class, and the volunteers were asked to guess a piece of music based on the first few seconds of the song. We mixed a variety of popular songs, classical pieces, instrumental movie themes, and silly songs (like The Chicken Dance, for example). We clapped when kids got the songs correct, and many times all the children would start singing along with the music.
We also made sure to leave flyers at the school so they could be distributed to the children that day. It was important that the information we gave also got home to the parents, since the kids may or may not be able to relay that information once school was over. Our school district requires all flyers to be approved before being distributed, so we had to finish the flyer about a month in advance and send it in to be approved before we could begin the mass printing of flyers.
In the end, it was completely exhausting to go to a different school every day for two weeks and to spend my entire morning in assemblies and schmoozing with principals and school staff, but it was absolutely worth it. The kids got excited, and now I have kids coming up to me in the library (and at the grocery store and at the bank, etc.) saying, "I remember you! I saw you at my school!" and that allows me to start a conversation about SLC with them and encourage them to sign up.
What does your library do to encourage kids to sign up for your summer programming?