after-hours reading camp-in--twice! she's blogged about it twice, that's how great it is!--I've wanted to offer a similar program. This past Friday, I gathered my supplies, arranged for a coworker to stay after hours with me, and finally offered my own take on the program. Here's how we did it.
Family Forts After Hours
5:30 p.m. - Arrival, Snack, Stories
My library closes at 6 p.m. on Friday nights, and I wanted our program families to be in the program room while the rest of the library was getting cleared out for the night. Thus I started the program a half hour before the doors would be locked.
As families arrived in the program room--sheets, pillows, and blankets in tow as recommended by the program description--I passed out cups of walking s'mores. I've used this treat before, and it was successful once again. (Recipe: Mix together a box of Golden Grahams, a bag of mini marshmallows, and a bag or two of chocolate chips. Stir.) As the families munched on their treat, they found spots in the program room for the introductory activities of our evening.
I shared two stories that worked very well to bridge the large age range of our attending children: Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. Admittedly, these are two of my favorite books to read aloud--I like to think I add a certain over-exaggerated drama that really makes the story funny for all ages. The stories did not disappoint in this program, as the kids' gasps and laughter made clear.
5:50 p.m. - The Rules
With ten minutes to go before closing, I handed out flashlights to the kids (leftover prizes from summer reading) and explained the rules. Additional building materials were available at the back of the program room: disposable tablecloths, fabric remnants, and floor cushions were ready for the taking. I explained that books could not be taken off the shelves for building forts--but they could be taken off the shelves for reading. I also reiterated a perennial library rule: use walking feet at all times.
6:00 p.m. - Family Fort Building and Reading
Once the customers and other staff were out the door, the families took over the library and carved out spaces for their forts. I would estimate, from my wanderings around the library, that most forts took about 10 minutes to construct. That left plenty of time for in-fort reading, and I was beyond thrilled to see the families engaging in reading together. In some forts, siblings took turns each reading a page or two. In others, mom and daughter browsed through a princess book together and talked about the pictures. This was reading gold, people. Library win 100%.
6:45 p.m. - Fort Clean-up (in anticipation of a surprise final activity)
6:50 p.m. - Lights Out Hide and Seek!
Hoots of excitement accompanied my announcement that we would wrap up the program with lights out hide and seek. I gave each family a single glow stick bracelet, and I explained that the person with the bracelet would be the hider. It would then be the job of the rest of the family to seek their hider. Once found, the hider would surrender his or her bracelet to the successful seeker, whose turn it became to hide. This strategy of creating teams, so to speak, worked really well. Sure, there were plenty of glow bracelets seen throughout the various library hiding spots, but seekers couldn't be sure until they got close whether they had found their hider.
I turned off the overhead lights that illuminate the library stacks for our game, which left safety lights as well as illuminated areas at the front of the library. No one fell or stumbled, so the arrangement seemed to work well for our size group.
7:05 p.m. - Goodbyes
Everyone was having such fun at lights out hide and seek that I let them have an extra five minutes before bringing the program to a close. Lights came back on, and I thanked everyone for coming as they gathered their fort supplies. I let all of the families out of the library at the same time so that no one would be trying to avoid cars in the parking lot--instead, everyone got to their cars safely at the same time.
This unprogram was incredibly low-intensity for staff and attendees: low planning and minimal cleanup, with very high literacy connection and enjoyment. I highly recommend modifying it so it can work for your library!