Stand Aside, Summer Reading. Winter Reading Takes the Stage
The other day I got an interesting message from writer and professor Marc Aronson. He wrote:
“The library students in my Masters class on Children, Reading, and Literacy spent several weeks in the course exploring innovative ways that school and public libraries around the country were adapting their programming to the requirements of the Pandemic. For a final assignment they worked in groups to create projects of their own (or to suggest enhancements to existing ideas). The students had many excellent ideas. One group consisting of Kaitlyn Ilinitch, Nathalie Levine (who is currently at the Princeton Public Library), Samantha Locklear and Collin Ortell created a project that I thought might be useful to your readers right now. Or perhaps some readers will use it as a base and create their own versions.”
The idea? Well, instead of Summer Reading during these dark and dreary months, why not shake it up a bit and come up with a Winter Reading program?
And so, with full credit to the work they poured into it, here is a novel series of ideas for a “Winter Reading Program”. Just in case you’d like to try something a little different:
Winter Reading Program 2020
The Winter Reading Program is modeled after libraries’ familiar summer reading programs. Just as in a typical summer, this winter many young people will experience disruptions in schooling or suspension of extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs. The Winter Reading Program aims to provide a social, creative, educational, and pleasurable outlet for them. It will run from January through March.
This winter is going to be particularly difficult for many families and young people, as the weather gets cold, the pandemic worsens, government assistance runs out, and schools and activities are closed across the country. During this time, it is especially important for libraries to offer ways for young people to socialize, express themselves, learn off-screen, and escape briefly from these hard realities.
The program takes the form of a genre reading challenge, with every two-week period focusing on a different genre or combination of genres (nonfiction, romance and friendship, poetry,fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction). Participants will fill out a game board as theyattempt to complete the challenge. At the end of the challenge, participants who have completed an activity for three genres will receive a free book from the library’s used bookstore.
Participants can read a book from a list of suggestions within the genre, or participate in a different activity based on that genre. Readers will be able to post video book reviews on Flipgrid, join virtual book discussions, attend virtual storytimes, do a grab-and-go or at-home craft or STEM activity, or participate in a writing workshop where they will write short stories or graphic narratives based on the first sentence of a book, and then share and discuss their work in a virtual discussion.
At least one graphic novel will be included in the list of suggested titles for each genre, to make sure that young people who struggle with reading (whether they have a learning disability, are just learning English, or read below their grade level’s average) have an option that is both accessible and appropriate to their maturity level. The activities and reading lists will be broken into four groups: Red, Purple, Green, and Blue.These will correspond roughly to ages or grades (preschool/early elementary school, later elementary school, middle school, and high school). Naming the groups by color instead of by grade level will help participants feel more comfortable trying activities and books from other groups, rather than being embarrassed to try a lower level or discouraged from trying a higher level.
Books in the Red category have lots of pictures and are great for reading aloud; books in the Purple category have shorter sentences and are great for practicing reading skills; books in the Green category have chapters and more complex language; and books in the Blue category have more grown-up themes and concepts. Sample book lists and activities are listed below for four genres.
Funding and Costs
The main costs will be for staff time, marketing, and prizes. Because the usual in-person programming will not be happening this winter, staff will have time to work on this program.Marketing will be mostly through the library’s own channels and through collaborations with community partners. The Friends of the Library have agreed to sponsor the program with prizes from its used bookstore, donations to which have increased in volume during the pandemic.
Staffing and Collaboration
The program will be run by multiple librarians in the youth services department, with one staff member serving as the point person for each different color group. Public librarians will collaborate with school librarians at each level to promote the program and provide access to books and digital tools.
Marketing and Publicity
The library will advertise the program throughout the library, in its other virtual programming, on its social media, and in print flyers posted around town. The program will also be pitched to local newspapers for earned media opportunities. Collaboration with community partners such as teachers, school librarians, the local bookstore,after-school programs, and neighborhood organizations will also help reach additional community members who may not be participating in library programming already.
Evaluation and Reflection
Staff will track the number of participants in each color group, the number of completed challenges, and the number of participants in each individual activity. Participants will be asked when they sign up whether they have participated in library programs or the summer reading program before. Staff will keep track of these responses to see whether the Winter Reading Program has succeeded in reaching new audiences. Participant and caregiver feedback will be solicited formally at the end of the program and encouraged throughout the program.
Sample Genre: Fantasy & Science Fiction
Sample Genre: Poetry
Sample Genre: Historical Fiction
Sample Genre: Nonfiction
Filed under: Guest Posts
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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