Summer Reading 2016, It’s a Wrap!

This past Saturday we finished up the 2016 summer reading and learning program. The 10 week program included the reading challenge and 53 programs designed to support families’ reading and learning as well as help them connect with the library in positive ways. The new digital log we’re using, the Great Reading Adventure, is giving us more data to pour over in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, I can report the summer was a success! Whole families participated more than ever, many new-to-the-library families enjoyed our variety of informal learning programs for the first time, and we were able to capitalize on the warm weather and encourage families to explore and play at city parks by planting summer reading secret codes around town.

Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall image

Beginning of the Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall

The Ice Cream Celebration we hold for kids at the end of each summer program was telling of this year’s success. Even with a smaller number of attendees than last year, the experience families had at the event was extremely positive. We replaced several carnival games with maker type activities (think LEGO building, play dough challenges and Harry Potter wand making) so the balance between prize winning and creative play was more even. Kids were happy and busy, instead of desperately running from game to game in search of more little plastic doo-dads, and they still left with a few prizes, free books, and bellies full of ice cream. We’re fostering lifelong learning and ‘making’ from an early age!

I’m shifting gears slightly and attending the Language Development and Family Engagement in the Digital Age Institute in DC this week, but I’ll share more stats from the summer reading and learning program, as well as final assessment of our Great Reading Adventure experience, when I return.

Apps for Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies

Along with the book lists, movie suggestions, and website recommendations I share as part of Summer@HPL each summer, we add related apps to our library’s Pinterest boards. Here are some of the apps for children I am introducing families to as part of my media advisory efforts. These apps are tied to the summer learning program’s theme of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and the various events at the library.

Toca Kitchen 2

 

Toca Kitchen 2 (storytime)
Toca Boca
iOS and Android

 

Miximal app

 

Miximal (storytime)
Yatatoy
iOS

 

img_4619

 

Never Alone (Maker Camp: Game Design)
E-Line Media
iOS and Android

 

 

unnamed

 

Minecraft (special program)
Mojang
iOS and Android

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain (mounted iPad)
Little Pickle Press
iOS

 

This is My Body

 

This is My Body- Anatomy for Kids (storytime)
Urbn Pockets
iOS

 

Human Body

 

Human Body (media advisory)
Tinybop
iOS

 

toca dance

 

Toca Dance (Maker Camp)
Toca Boca
iOS

 

Harry's Healthy Garden

 

Harry’s Healthy Garden (mounted iPad)
Baby First & American Heart Association
iOS

 

Sago Mini Monsters

Sago Mini Monsters (storytime)
Sago Mini
iOS

 

 

LEGO Movie Maker

 

LEGO Movie Maker (Maker Camp: Video Design)
LEGO
iOS

Homer’s Great Reading Adventure, part 1

A few summers ago I went searching for a digital log that teens and adults could use to log their reading time during our all ages summer reading program. I needed a digital log that was free, well-designed, and easy to manage. Well, anything that met all of that criteria was hard to come by. I tried Survey Monkey forms, website forms, and a simple, free digital platform- all with limited success. I felt like I was in our Maker Club getting more and more frustrated with a design that wasn’t working. But surely multiple iterations of an idea had to yield something one day, right?

About a year ago, I heard about the Great Reading Adventure and the great summer reading work being done by the Maricopa County Library District (Arizona). I was thrilled to see a library-created, open source tool that just might be what I needed. I watched the demo, sat through a great presentation, and discussed the idea of using with my library’s director, the city’s IT director and a coworker. Just as we were all set to go for it, we discovered that we needed a new server. We didn’t have the money. Then we connected with some other libraries in the state and tried to make it work as a partnership, but that fell through. Summer moved on and I got distracted by endless programs and exhaustion. The idea was put to rest.

Photo credit: Homer Public Library

Photo credit: Homer Public Library

Earlier this year, the idea of using the Great Reading Adventure at our library came back to life thanks to my coworker @hollyfromhomer. We got to work setting up a customized version in time for Summer, using another library’s server, with the idea that we would pilot the platform for other libraries in the state. Holly is the mastermind behind making the platform user-friendly while I’ve been working on the program’s content. So far so good! Details about how the platform works for us will come in part 2.

One of the aspects I love about the Great Reading Adventure is perhaps one of the things that would give some pause; the log is digital. Up until now kids have used a small booklet filled with a place to track reading time, activity sheets and a calendar. I have wondered how families as a community would respond to an all digital log for kids specifically (as well as teens and adults). Wondering and questioning about technology isn’t a bad thing for a media mentor. It means that I am following my own advice and being intentional also. After careful consideration, as I recently discussed with a parent, using the digital log serves a few specific purposes:

  • It is a literacy tool that provides opportunities for families to talk about digital citizenship and how to use digital media in positive ways. Many families already have some kind of digital media plan and are using the digital log as a piece in the puzzle or as an example of digital media that supports learning. Intentional use of digital media is an important idea for kids and teens to learn. This tool has given me multiple opportunities to talk about digital media, kids and teens.
  • Unlike the expensive, multi-page, paper logs that we have created and printed in the past, the digital log platform is free and appeals to a broad range of ages. (We currently have over 400 kids, teens, and adults participating. Small by some standards, but a good size for our small budget and staff size.) The ultimate goal, while lofty, of the summer reading program is to encourage all kids to keep reading and prevent ‘summer slide’. We will be able to support more families each summer and, at the same time, save money to spend on the many free programs we offer.  This year, we will offer 50 programs in June and July including everything from storytime and puppet shows to author visits and the Maker Camp. These programs offer families, regardless of background and economic status, the chance to learn, play, and explore at the library. This is the first year we’ve used the digital platform and over time with families’ feedback, we will be able to further mold it to our community’s wants and needs.
  • Offering digital badges provides a way to recognize readers for their reading efforts as well as encourage kids to explore local parks or attend programs where they will find secret codes to redeem for specific badges. This piece has already been successful at connecting kids and their families with different parts of the community and offering no-cost incentives to stay active. Many families are looking for ways to support their children’s reading without focusing on the small incentives we gift for the first 10 hours of reading and the badges are a fun option. For families that spend at least some of the summer traveling or working remotely the digital log and badges provide a way for them to participate in our community’s program while they are out of town.
  • Over the past few years, families have asked us if we were going to offer a digital reading log. They were tired of losing the paper logs or trying to keep track of more than one in a house with multiple siblings. We are finally able to say yes, another way we remain responsive to community needs.

So far so good.

Details about the nuts and bolts of the Homer version of the Great Reading Adventure to follow in Part 2.

Summer@HPL 2016

Our summer learning program, Summer@HPL, began on May 23rd and I have been busy putting into action a robust schedule of events for kids, teens, and their families. At the same I’ve been collaborating with a fabulous coworker, @hollyfromhomer, to get the Homer version of the Great Reading Adventure up and running. We’re piloting the digital platform for other libraries in the state of Alaska. More on that soon.

It’s been a busy Spring!

Summer@HPL headerOur program, based on the Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s theme of On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!, is focusing on the concept of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and runs from the Monday after school gets out until the end of July. Many families spend the few weeks in August before school starts traveling, so I schedule our program during the first 10 weeks of summer vacation. It works well for us and keeps the library hopping, especially when summer reading families are combined with the many summer visitors and seasonal workers who base out of Homer (for commercial fishing, etc.) and use the library regularly.

Here are the programs I have planned for kids and teens. There is mix of inside/outside and high tech/low tech events to keep families active and engaged with the library, the community, and each other. The blend involves lots of opportunities to learn, create, and share, reflecting the needs and interests of local families.

A note on adults- My library does offer a year round reading challenge for adults that we will continue to market during the summer, but I haven’t planned any specific events for adults this year beyond the occasional author readings sponsored by the Friends. With limited resources, I had to decide where to focus what I’ve got. I’m concentrating efforts on intentional, whole family engagement at many of our kid events. I was inspired by the conversations I’ve been having with library and research friends across the country as part of the Libraries for the 21st Century: It’s A Family Thing learning community (sponsored by PLA and the Harvard Family Research Project).

EXPLORE Family Storytimes (weekly): In the summer I expand the preschool storytimes’ targeted audience and include 6 & 7 year olds. I do this for a couple of reasons. Siblings are more likely to tag along and feel included with this age range so families will return each week. We also don’t have the capacity to have a lot of separate programs for each age group and this helps include these kids in a very conspicuous way- they feel included.

We include traditional elements in the storytime and several activity stations instead of the one or two art and craft projects we offer in the Winter. These storytimes are advertised as STEAM-injected and many families respond to the STEM connection. The STEAM elements might include open-ended art projects, pint-sized engineering problems, using apps and other digital tech, and of course developmentally appropriate math (counting, patterns, and computational thinking).

In June we’ll be reading and playing with themes that include: bodies (humans, monsters and other animals), re-engineered fairy tales, simple machines, travel, and play.

Small Fry Toddler/Baby Storytimes (weekly): This is a 20-30 minute storytime for ages 2 and under and their caregivers. It is a program we offer year round, but we include it in the schedule events to help connect families with babies and toddlers in the library-wide effort. Check out some of my toddler/baby storytimes for a complete details.

Victoria Jamieson is on her way to Homer (and then Anchorage) as I write for a fun visit! We’re excited to have an amazing author/illustrator come to town, a rarity in Homer. She’ll do a program for younger kids around her book Olympig! (Dial Books, 2012), a timely tale that works well with the summer theme and the 2016 Olympic Games. In the afternoon, Victoria will lead a comic workshop for kids and teens ages 10-15. We have lots of Roller Girl (Dial Books, 2015) fans in Homer, even without a roller derby team.

Summer Maker Camp (weekly): Maker programs have been an annual summer feature for four years. We don’t have the physical space for a permanent makerspace, so we integrate a pop-up makerspace once a week and include the maker concept in many of our other other programs. We were able to expand on this popular summer series during the school year thanks to an ALSC Curiosity Creates grant and kids 8-15 are excited to hang out again. We’ll meet every Thursday starting later this month.

We’re focusing on game design (digital and board) in June and video in July to give everyone time to work on their projects instead of focusing on a new tool or skill each week. We had a chance to better understand how these young makers wanted to work over the school year and we think this will be a good fit.

To kick off the June maker sessions we’ll be Skyping with two different game designers so we can talk about what makes a great game and how games are made. We’ll chat with Brian Alspach of E-Line Media (one of the creators of Never Alone, a beautiful digital game made in partnership with Alaskan elders) and Jens Peter de Pedro of Little Frogs (a founding team member of Toca Boca and leader in the world of kids’ interactive media). I love connecting mentors and our community of young makers! Skype is our friend!

Yoga for Kids (series): We are teaming up with a local yoga instructor to offer a series of four one hour classes for 5-8 year olds. This ties in nicely with our program theme. many of our programs and events don’t require any registration, but this one does because of space.

Dog Jog (with the Kachemak Bay Running Club): We’ve teamed up with the local running club for an all ages 5K beach run during a particularly low tide. They club’s volunteers are adding a 1 mile route for Summer@HPL families to walk or run. Any families who participate will get a secret code to redeem in the reading log for a digital badge, one of many kids, teens, and adults can earn this summer. (Other secret codes are available at library programs and at city parks around town.)

Stone Soup Puppet Show: The Krambambuli Puppet Theatre will present a show and string puppet family workshop for ages 3-10. Our families love puppet shows, so we’re excited to offer not one, but two, puppet shows this summer and get kids making from a young age!

Teen Read What You Want Graphic Novel Book Club: Back for a second summer, this book club is casual! Teens ages 12-17 meet me at the library to talk about what they’re reading over pizza. The group isn’t huge, but it’s a good way to hang out and talk about books, movies and anything else on our minds.

Country Fried Puppet-Palooka: Our second puppet show will be presented by the zany puppeteers and storytellers at Mcmazing Tales who are visiting Alaska again this summer. The family show will be silly and Alaskans will recognize the puppet designs from the Moose: the Movie, created by Tundra Comics maker Chad Carpenter.

Movies: We’ll offer three movie showings at the library this summer. One for younger kids and their families and two for teens.

Scientific Illustration for Kids: National Geographic Kids author/illustrator Hannah Bonner will be visiting a friend in town and offered to be part of a program for kids ages 8-13 who love to draw and/or who are fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric life.

Roustabout Circus: An active summer has to include the circus! The Roustabout Circus duo is visiting Homer and making a stop at the library to entertain local families. Their shows and workshops are always a hit!

Pool Party: Instead of pool passes, this year were hosting a pool party for ages 11 and under (and their adults) at the community pool inside the local high school. Kids are SO excited for this event! Swim club kids even asked if I could make a special swim challenge at the event. We’ll have to give out tickets for this event, but we’ll include a lot of families.

Minecraft Challenge: We’ll be playing Minecraft with teens at the Chippewa River District Library! The four hour challenge is always exciting, and also a bit dramatic. This event brings a lot of kids and teens to the library that we rarely see at other summer program events.

2016 LEGO Contest: We are sponsoring the 6th annual LEGO contest this summer for kids and teens. We regularly get 50+ entries which we display at the library or a week. Local judges choose winners in three age categories and the public votes on a people’s choice winner.

Ice Cream Celebration: We conclude our summer program for kids with a big celebration that includes carnival type games, ice cream, and prize drawings. 

Tinker Tuesdays 2015: A Recap

Illuminated Mask image

Tinker Tuesday: Illuminated Masks & Minecraft Bookmarks

As I clean up the mess left behind in the wake of our summer learning program, I’m of course remembering the highlights. This was the third year I offered a summer maker/tinker series for kids and teens ages 8-18 and it continues to be popular and successful. Many of the young makers come to every program which this year ranged from an Illuminated Masks & Bookmarks program to DIY: Bike Maintenance and Soldering 101. I specifically look for both what interests our community and what gaps exist in the offerings for kids and teens around town.

The series is designed to offer kids access to the materials and know-how to explore high and low tech projects, inspire their creativity, strengthen their critical thinking skills and of course expose them to new ideas. We don’t have the physical space for a permanent makerspace, so we set up shop each week and give kids and teens time to play and explore. We do this with the help of several community mentors who share their expertise and enthusiasm to complement what I bring to the program. Some programs are led by me and some by other mentors.

In year’s past, we’ve had anywhere from 10-45 participants in our small space where we host our maker programs (community meeting room). This year I planned some programs that require more expensive materials, but with the same small budget, so I needed to know that I would have enough supplies for everyone who attended. I decided to require registration this year so I could foresee the number of makers I would need to plan for. To keep the process consistent, I had participants register for all programs, even those that were cheaper supply-wise. It worked well, although not perfectly as many librarians can imagine. I did reminder calls the day before to help manage any wait lists and allowed kids who showed up to join if there was space.

Programs either had space for 12 or 20 depending on the activity and the layout of the room needed for each program. For example, coding had a maximum of 12 because we had teams of two working on 6 laptops or 10 iPads spread out on meeting room tables. Bike Maintenance could accommodate more participants because we removed the furniture for part of the program and went outside for the rest.

Here are the cost breakdowns if you’re interested. In addition to materials and any professional fees required for each program, I’ve included the costs of snacks that we offer at all of these longer programs to keep those creative minds strong (and feed any kids who regularly go hungry during the summer).

Note on funding: Our Friends group continues to fund this series plus our entire summer learning program with the help of strong community support. With additional resources we would eagerly run more maker programs after school or during school closures throughout the year.

Program Kids/Teens Attendance Cost Notes
Illuminated Masks/Bookmarks 12 $274 (enough materials for an additional small program during the Winter)
Superhero Collage 10 $209  (guest mentor)
Soldering 10 $205 (guest mentor, enough materials for an additional small program during the Winter)
LEGO Club (met 2 times) $36 $0 (we already have the LEGOs thatnks to the ALSC/LEGO grant and snacks were pulled from the large stash I have on hand)
Coding 8 $9 (PB & J supplies for programming demo)
Coding for Girls 6 $0
DIY Bike Maintenance 12 $150  (guest mentor)
Marine Mammal Rescue & Rehab 20 $303 (guest mentor, funded by an inter-library cooperation grant from our state library)
ROVs 18 $0 (guest mentors, program equipment and staff provided by a local partner organization)
Drawing Comics 28 $805  (guest mentor)
General Snacks $50 (paid for snacks for all programs)
Total Costs: $2,005

If you have questions about the individual programs, please let me know.