This article originally appeared in the November 22nd, 2017 issue of The Cape Courier.
The New Summer Reading Program: A Library/Foundation Collaboration
The Thomas Memorial Library and its Foundation have had an exciting year. Over the last fiscal year 144,000 items were checked out; that’s over 485 items per day. The major expansion came in new and exciting programs. There were 683 program with over 10,000 attendees. The greatest growth was noted in teen program participation (617 percent increase) and adult program attendance (107% increase).
The new “Summer Reading Program” provides an example of how the Foundation supports the library.
The Library staff were familiar with the Children’s Literacy Initiative findings that when children don’t read over the summer they can fall two years behind their summer reading peers by the 5th grade. This is called the “summer slide.” Those lost skills have to be retaught at the beginning of the school year at a cost to learning and to the education system.
The Library staff decided to introduce the 2017 Summer Reading Program to avoid the summer slide. To successfully attract more participants, small prizes make a difference. Here’s how the program worked. Participants tracked their progress on a reading log. As children progressed on the log, they came in for a spin of the prize wheel. Teens and adults received a raffle ticket for prizes like themed gift baskets or a restaurant gift certificate in exchange for their completed chart. But the dilemma was how to fund the small prizes. The Foundation helped fill this gap. And it worked. The program had 600 participants (294 children, 120 teens, and 164 adults) reading for fun and prizes.
Mary Capobianco, one of the Foundation Directors on the storytelling team, interviewed some of the participants. Here’s a sample of their responses.
A group of four, soon-to-be 2nd graders, all admitted that they signed up for summer reading program because their mother’s made them. But, all of them also admitted that they had fun completing the sheet. “There is lots of stuff to do on it besides read,” one child shared. They explained that when they come into the library to claim their “spin to win” prize they also can land on a mystery choice space. The Mystery Choice gives them a library mystery to solve, like “Go around the library looking for characters with sunglasses”. They all said they would sign up next year on their own.
A teenager with the summer reading sheet in hand said that he wanted to win the $75 card for ‘Diversions’, so his mother told him to sign up. She checks off the books as he reads them. When asked would he have joined without the prizes, he answered honestly, “No,” he laughed. “I wouldn’t have.”
A Cape Elizabeth Mom shared with one of the librarians that:
“My children raced to the library to get their summer reading game cards, and they couldn't wait to see the new activities. Each brought books with us everywhere this summer, including the beach, camping, and to visit family because they wanted to keep up with the program. I love that the summer reading program keeps us connected to the library and visiting regularly throughout the summer!"
Fairchild and Boulay (2002) estimated that re-teaching forgotten materials when students return to school in the fall can cost $1,500 per student each year. Even if the savings in Cape Elizabeth are only a fraction of this the summer reading program is beneficial for both the participants and Cape Elizabeth community.
For additional examples of programs the Foundation has helped to fund, please check us out at our new website: www.thomasmemorialfoundation.org.
George Morse, President of Thomas Memorial Library Foundation.