Monday, June 18, 2012

Thinking Outside the Book: Summer Seek and Finds

Tons of kids come through the library over the summer. Sometimes, they are literally running around the library--the children's section in particular. Lots of librarians have great ideas on how to capitalize on this captive summer audience of library kids. At some point in the past, one of the women who held my job before me decided that if the kids are going to be running amok in the library during the hot summer months, they may as well acquaint themselves with where things are located. Thus was born the Summer Seek and Find, now a much-loved summer tradition at my branch.

During each of the nine weeks of summer reading, families who come into the library are greeted with our Summer Seek and Find sign. On that sign, a large picture of a children's book character is displayed. The goal, then, is for kids to find the corresponding small picture of said character somewhere in the children's area of the library. When they find the character, they report its location to the reference desk for a small prize (a piece of candy, a Dream Big READ tattoo, etc.). Keep in mind that my branch doesn't have a huge children's section; we've got a 15'x15' area with picture books on three sides, four aisles of juvenile fiction, an aisle of juvenile audiovisual, and three aisles of juvenile nonfiction. What I'm saying is, there aren't too many places that these characters can hide. This activity is not meant to be particularly difficult.

It is, however, meant to introduce kids of all ages to the various collections housed in the children's area. For our first week this summer, Kipper was hiding out in the juvenile biographies. Last week the Man in the Yellow Hat was hanging out by our holiday picture books. That's two collections kids might not have known about! And, after completing the Summer Seek and Find, now they do. Bam! Library skills.

This week kids are searching for Martha the dog, and while you can see she's hiding amidst the chapter books, we don't let kids get the prize just for sharing that general piece of information. We ask for a more specific description--what books are nearby? what are some of the authors around her? what does the aisle sign read for that row of shelves? The goal is for kids to become more acquainted with the library's set-up and variety of resources, and we try to encourage seekers to look at their surroundings as they seek. Sure, a few kids grumble as we send them back into the stacks to take more notice of a character's location, but plenty more kids end up choosing a book from the area around a hidden character. There are even more young pre-readers who are thrilled to look for a much-loved character somewhere in the library. Everyone who participates in the Summer Seek and Find gets something out of it.

I highly recommend giving the Summer Seek and Find a chance at your library. It doesn't take a whole lot of work--print the signs and pictures, create tally sheets if you want to keep statistics, and change the character and hiding place every week. Ta-da! Now you've got 400+ kids who learn something new about the library each week. Add that to all the reading they're doing for the SRP, and the library is definitely keeping kids' brains engaged during these hot summer months.

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