Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Come One, Come All: Making a Summer Reading Kick-Off Party a Family Affair

The beginning of summer reading is a pretty big deal. We emphasize the start date when we visit schools, and all the library signage and promotional materials clearly display the date on which families can start getting involved. As a result, we tend to get a TON of people who visit our branches on Summer Reading Day 1 because they're excited to start at the very first chance.

What better reason to have a Summer Reading Kick-Off Party? Lots of libraries do it. The people are going to be there--why not make it as much fun and as big a deal as possible?

That's precisely what we did earlier this week. Our big Summer Reading Kick-Off Party took place at a local county park--the same site as another fun program we've got going on this summer--on Monday afternoon. We had lots for kids and families to do during their visits. Starting at 3 p.m., we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open our library/parks partnership installation. That ribbon-cutting was complete with crazy-large scissors and a young frequent library program-goer doing the honors of snipping the ribbon. Lots of families took that opportunity to make the walk around the lake trail and read Peter Brown's The Curious Garden. I love the comparison photo (below) that shows just how lush this park has become compared to when our partnership was in its earliest stages.

Many more festivities took place in the adjacent park lodge (we wanted shelter in case of inclement weather, of which there was none). Our local Sam's Club donated a cake for the event, and families enjoyed light refreshments and water. We also had an army of teen volunteers helping out at the 6 activity stations spread out in the lodge:
  1. Flower Craft -- Kids made flowers out of cupcake liners and pipe cleaners.
  2. Tree Cookie Necklace Craft -- Kids could decorate "tree cookies" made from slices of cedar trees and string them into necklaces. Cedar is invasive in this region, and while the park department needs to remove it from the parks, they save every bit they cut down and use it somehow.
  3. Summer Reading Tattoos and Stickers -- Kids love to wear reading tattoos and stickers. We don't mind the free promotion.
  4. The Curious Garden Memory Game -- The members of my library's Kids Advisory Board helped put together this big game of Memory (you may have grown up calling it Concentration). Kids had fun playing against one another and themselves.
  5. Dig into Science -- A dozen specimens from the lake trail--leaves, flowers, grasses--were available for closer inspection with the help of our magnifying glasses.
  6. Meet a St. Louis Lion -- This local soccer team is a summer reading prize sponsor--children and teen readers can earn free tickets to the games--so we were happy when they asked if they could be part of the Kick-Off Party. They talked to very excited kids and signed pictures.

We also had two informational booths: one from the library, where kids, teens, and adults could all sign up for their respective summer reading programs as well as pick up summer event guides; and one from the parks department, where folks could get more information about goings-on at other county parks. We saw very brisk business at the summer reading signup table, with lots of families eager to get started reading together. Everyone couldn't help but smile when we reminded them that reading the book around the lake trail would count toward their reading goals!

Jamming with WildHeart
The last formal event we had at our Kick-Off Party was a concert from children's educators and entertainers WildHeart. This Emmy-winning duo shared 45 minutes of fun, silly, informational, and interactive songs for the families in the lodge. I saw lots of kids getting into dancing like amphibians and other creatures.

After the concert, families finished up visiting the activity stations and the summer reading sign-up table. The crowd started to dissipate as we neared dinnertime, which provided a perfect opportunity for volunteers to get themselves signed up for summer reading.

The final count of attendees at the Kick-Off Party was 493--a truly incredible success considering we've never offered an off-site event like this before. Our parks department partners were really thrilled with the event as well.

The weather was gorgeous--a sunny 68 degrees, occasional clouds. The mood was bright and cheery. And the customers (all ages!) were enthusiastically enjoying themselves. I heard from many, many patrons who were very pleased with the event and expressed a hope that we'll do something similar in future years.

I'm having a hard time thinking why we wouldn't.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds EPIC. What a great kickoff. I love that you were partnered with the Parks Dept. too...a great combination.


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