Tonight was the first of many outreach events I will be doing this Spring to spread the word about our 2014 summer reading program. I talked to lots of familiar young faces and got to meet some new families at the annual activities fair hosted by a local elementary school parent’s association. While the lead up to the annual activities fair is hectic, to say the least, the event itself is loads of fun!
If you’ve ever wanted to practice an elevator pitch, an event like this is just the place to test it out! Families are walking from table to table finding out about every kind of summer program our small community has to offer and many, if not all, have kids under the age of ten in tow. That means I have thirty seconds to a one minute to catch their attention. I always talk to a few families who have never heard about the summer reading program or never participated, so I make sure I am ready to get them hooked on the spot!
Fortunately for families, the parent’s organization and the school host a math and science night at the same time. Last year my table was in the same space as the math and science activities which was a great, great, great decision. I got to talk to parents while kids investigated and experimented. It was a win for the library too because families left the event associating fun, exploring, and the library.
This year I asked to be in the same space and promised to bring some activities for kids to do, as always. My table and the other activities flowed so nicely together that some kids even thought I was running the marble maze activity! I was honored. I brought some easy activities with me that worked well for young children, often the siblings of those most interested in the marble maze and other hosted stations. I brought my beloved Alphabet Tree, inspired by the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I built it, with the help of family and friends, for an outreach event I was part of last Fall and now I bring it whenever I head out for family events. I’m even planning to bring it to the library for storytime soon. (It lives in my garage because of lack of space at the library.)
The tree and the magnetic letters together make a fun tool for strengthening letter knowledge and an opportunity to talk to kids about how magnets work. The black paint on the trunk of the palm-like tree is magnetic and the green is not, so we get to test where the magnetic letters stick and where they don’t. Parents are fascinated by the tree and I always explain how I made it, hopefully inspiring them to think of ways to do something similar at home. Before the activities fair even started, kids were ready to play!
To keep little fingers and minds busy, I also grabbed a roll of butcher paper as I walked out the door at the library. I covered the bench seats in front of my table (a cafeteria table provided by the school) with the paper and pulled out a box of crayons so kids could draw and write while I talked to their parents or caregivers about the summer program. There were some cool creations!
I always pack a lot into my table spaces and usually bring more than I have room for. This is done on purpose so that I can be a little flexible during set up. And because I staff these events alone, my table can be set up in less than thirty minutes and I can carry everything I bring in a few bags or boxes.
Here’s what I had on hand with me:
- eye-catching, but inexpensive table cloth
- new books
- duct tape
- prize samples
- registration forms (we also offer online registration)
- 100 brochures (I handed out about 75)
- sign-up prizes (this year I gave out Fizz Boom READ pencils)
- summer program banner
- Alpahbet Tree with magnetic wood letters and numbers
- basket of large LEGO blocks
- storytime brochures
- tips for using new media with kids
- my staff name tag
I’ll post more about my plans for this summer’s program in the coming weeks!