Summer Reading Club

It’s June and many public libraries have kicked off their summer reading clubs. The summer season tends to be the time when libraries shine – there is more foot traffic and more program offerings. Once summer arrives school media specialists hand off their students to public librarians, with the objective that they will continue reading during the extended school break.

To meet this objective, most public libraries implement a summer reading program for children, teens, and adults. These summer reading clubs vary in structure but generally include prize incentives of some kind. According to a 2014 report from the American Library Association, “95 percent of libraries offer summer reading programs to forestall the “summer slide” in reading achievement experienced when learning takes a holiday between school terms.”

In order to generate interest in summer reading clubs for kids and teens, librarians perform outreach in schools where they tout the benefits of signing up. Some libraries offer modified summer reading clubs, providing alternatives to reading such as participation in a literacy-related event in order to cater to patrons with special needs. The hope is to convey that the library is a place for everyone to enjoy. Other outreach methods include decoration of departments in accordance with the state-generated summer reading theme, social media promotion, and signage.

Typically, children do very little reading outside of school. Yet, studies have shown that those who sign up for their library’s summer reading club are much more enthusiastic about reading. According to Public Libraries Online, “a number of studies suggest that reading four to six books over the summer helps readers maintain their skills, and reading ten to twenty books helps improve their skills.” This information is very encouraging to public libraries, as not only does circulation of materials tend to increase but libraries are also able to fill the gap in learning once school is out. The main goal is to avoid what many refer to as the “summer slide” – the decline in reading during the summer months.

Why are summer reading clubs important? They encourage independent reading, foster a love of literature, and promote life-long library use. The idea is to “hook” new library users and ensure that loyal patrons come back. Patrons can be enticed by prizes, but ultimately completing the summer reading club (however many required books or hours) is important. The Collaborative Summer Reading Program (CSLP; cslpreads.org) is a consortium designed to unite all 50 states in summer reading club ideas, resources, and marketing materials.

According to a study published in 2014 in The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, most teens and children (ages 8-17) in a large midwestern city library signed up for the summer reading club due to a desire to practice reading, followed by prize incentives, and school encouragement. Results also indicated that, “a challenge for libraries is to continue to seek new opportunities to recruit children and teenagers who do not choose on their own to participate in SRCs.”

Ultimately, summer reading clubs offer a unique opportunity for public librarians to enhance their services and support extended literacy outside the classroom.

Did you know: Summer reading programs at public libraries have been implemented since the 1890s!