November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Six Tips to Combat Tween Summer Slide

We are all aware of the dangers of summer slide. Librarians bend over backwards to keep kids reading over the summer, but the first hurdle is to get them in the library, which can be difficult during a time of year when you’re competing with great weather, busy schedules, fewer school SummerSlide522379833assignments, and pool parties. Middle schoolers can sometimes wander through the library with no place to call their own. While having a dedicated space in the library just for them can be enormously useful, many libraries don’t have the real estate—or budget—to create a tween-only space. There are still smart ways, however, to engage middle school readers over the long, hot months.

  • Firstly, take a look at your summer reading program. How are the ages divided? Are kids from birth through eighth grade lumped into one general “children’s” program? Have you lumped sixth through 12th grade together? If it’s feasible in your library, try separating them out. Separating the age groups will allow you to cater the reading requirements, measurements, and prizes to a more specific audience. While you could include middle school and high school together, you might scare away your high schoolers by welcoming younger kids to their group. Be strategic, but don’t be afraid to experiment and discover what groupings work best for the kids and teens in your community.

 

  • Offer the kids something to do that’s not necessarily related to your Summer Reading Program. Sure, sometimes tweens and teens simply like to lounge around, but you may be surprised by how willing they are to volunteer or lend a quick hand on a small project. For example, ask a kid to find “the most boring book in our nonfiction collection.” Believe it or not, this can help your circulation as well as potentially identifying books you accidentally overlooked during past weeding sessions. Lay out some quick and easy crafts that don’t require staff supervision. Or ask older kids to help you prep crafts for the toddler set. No matter what you choose, you’re giving them a reason to come in and see what’s new at your library each week.

 

 

  • Out-of-the-box programming can serve to spike circulation of your collections. This summer, I plan on hosting a sriracha test kitchen, where middle schoolers are dared to try the popular hot sauce on anything from watermelon, to crackers, to chocolate. We will watch a sriracha documentary first, which is available for checkout afterwards. We will have cookbooks on display and available. We’ve also hosted a  fort-building day, which featured books about unique structures and architecture. Pottery and painting programs lead to art history books. The choices are endless. Think about the programs you already have scheduled for this summer and be sure to have a plan in place to create related—and even tangential—book displays in the same space. Whenever possible before, during, or after the program, spend a minute or two sharing information about a few of the titles with the group. Don’t take the display down immediately after the program ends—there may be kids who couldn’t make it and still want to do the activities on their own time. Others may ask about the display, which is a perfect opportunity to talk up future programs.

 

  • Book reviews are a great way to get kids talking about books, as well as provide a window into what your community is reading. Many libraries offer incentives to entice kids into writing book reviews, though most kids love to be asked their opinion and many would happily share their thoughts on the latest book they’ve read. Some schools require kids to write reviews over the summer—by making review-writing a part of your summer reading program, you could be helping many students complete their summer assignment. Our library posts middle school reviews on our website, but you don’t need a fancy website to get the job done. A student-created book review display using a large white board, Post-It notes, or colored index cards can also be really impressive, and potentially cut down on your display-building responsibilities. I ask my regulars to read particular books that I wish I had time to read, and have them tell me about it. When later suggesting that book in a reader’s advisory session, I let them know that a fellow middle schooler recommended it. That can be even more persuasive than your professional opinion.

 

  • Nothing accelerates summer slide quite like an empty stomach. Look into setting up your library as a summer meals site. Not only will you be providing another quality service to community members in need, but you may be bringing in a new audience that might use other library services while visiting.

 

What are some ways that you go above and beyond to combat summer slide?

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Christina Keasler About Christina Keasler

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She's responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for the article, especially for the links to the Nerf war and break dance videos. Awesome stuff!