Here is how it all breaks down statistically.
319 kids signed up for the program. Of those, about 75 actually finished and came back in to report that they had finished.
I personally performed 62 story time sessions, broken down by age and type as follows:
- Family Story Time: 6
- Baby/Toddler Story Time: 30
- Tales for Fours and Fives: 7
- Baby Lap Time: 9
- Tales for Twos and Threes: 3
- Class and Camp Visits: 5
- Saturday Family Story Times: 2
Story time attendance was continually high all summer, and there were a few Tuesdays where over 140 babies and toddlers came to Baby/Toddler Story Time.
We had a really successful kick-off program where we asked school-age kids to add a square to a quilt. While we were unable to hang up the quilt due to repainting in the story time room and other various issues, they seemed to enjoy expressing themselves in that way, and it was a project in which we were able to involve camp groups as well.
Some story time books were hit or miss, but there was a good number of them that worked so well I will definitely want to repeat them in the future. My top ten are listed below:
- Hunwick's Egg by Mem Fox
This book really clicked with the preschool crowd, ages 3-5. The Australian animals were unfamiliar, so the kids enjoyed guessing at those, and they also got creative with their speculation about what might be inside Hunwick the bandicoot's egg. It also tied in well with Cuddly Koalas and Taba Naba, two Australian songs I chose to go with the theme.
- Sail Away by Donald Crews
My baby/toddler group enjoyed this one. The onomatopoeia, in particular, got the nannies in the audience to participate, which in turn, made the kids more attentive to the book.
- Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman
Perfect for family story times, this new book allows the reader to pull out the fortunes from each cookie and then follow along as each one comes true. Babies, big kids, and grown-ups, all enjoyed this one, and it was a lot of fun to read.
- I am a Backhoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines
A definite favorite of the twos and threes. I wasn't sure they'd understand the concept of the book - the child pretending to be each of these digging machines, but it resonated surprisingly well, and some savvy threes could name each machine before I said it.
- Hop! by Phyllis Root
I'd do this one again with babies, for sure. By adding in a simple bunny rabbit gesture with two fingers and saying, "Hop, hop!" at the end of each page, it became a wonderful interactive experience for the babies and their caregivers.
- Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli
I love everything about Leslie Patricelli's books, and this one, especially, is a great read-aloud because you can adjust your voice depending on whether you're reading a quiet page or a loud page. I also made this one interactive by asking the grown-ups to say "Shhhh" after each quiet activity.
- Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Four year old boys can't get enough of this book. I read it very conversationally, and asked the kids lots of questions, which made it a fun experience for all of us, myself included. I'll definitely considering using this one for class visits.
- Dogs by Emily Gravett
I have great luck with all of Emily Gravett's books, but this one has the best surprise ending, and though I didn't have the kids bark at the end of each page, that's another way to make it interactive.
- The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz
I've already used this book three times since my library got it just a couple of weeks ago. It's been a wonderful change of pace from my usual Wheels on the Bus, and the kids seem to really like it and respond to the illustrations as well as the new motions it introduces to our usual Wheels on the Bus routine.
- My Little Sister Hugged an Ape by Bill Grossman
This book really is hilarious, and I know one five-year-old boy who couldn't get enough of it. Another one to save for school visits.
What to improve.
Because this was my first year here, and this library building's first year in existence, there were a lot of things to learn. Now that I know them, there are some definite changes I'll want to make next year. Here they are in no particular order:
Be more flexible. Because I'm new, and because this library system is much larger and much more heavily regulated by administration, I was very wary of thinking outside the box and coming up with my own creative ways to approach summer reading. I realized late in the summer that other branches didn't restrict themselves nearly as much, and I hope I will feel more comfortable putting my own creative touches onto the program next year.
Do a better job of promoting performers. We had many programs this summer with low attendance. I did promote the programs with fliers and on the library website, but I didn't realize how much I'd need to hand sell them to individual kids. I also wasn't on my neighborhood list-serv until halfway through the summer, because I didn't realize what a useful promotional tool it was. That has already been remedied for the fall, and I'm crossing my fingers for at least a small crowd for my craft programs.
Plan more of my own school-age programming. I relied heavily on the summer reading committee's performers to draw in school-age kids, but the kids didn't come. I want to find ways to make the summer reading experience more interactive and personal for kids between ages 5 and 12.
Have an end of summer party. I have a good number of people angry with me right now because I didn't plan a party. We always had one at my previous library, so I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me, but it never did. I won't make that mistake again.
I'm sure more ideas will surface over the next 10 months, but I feel like that is a good start. I definitely learned a lot from my summer experience, and I feel like I have finally taken ownership of my department and its programming. I am well-prepared for Fall and looking forward to our first full school year at this location.
Check back before the end of this week for my summer preview post. Also feel free to share your own summer reading lessons and advice in comments!