What Does the Summer Reading Program Look Like at Your Library?

summer reading program discussion

It’s summer in the United States, which means it’s time for the Summer Reading Program (SRP)! When I moved away from my hometown, I was excited to learn that my new library also has a Summer Reading Program for people over the age of eighteen, so I can participate even if I’m not a kid anymore!  After talking to some friends, I realized that SRPs can vary a lot by library (states have different guidelines, but individual libraries also have some leeway), so I want to know what Summer Reading looks like at your library (and what you think about it)!

Who Can Participate?

Is the SRP only for kids, or can adults sign up? Do you need to have a library card to join? Do you need to pay off your fines before they let you join?

My current library has SRPs for both kids and adults, and you do not need to belong to the library to sign up. Just give them a name and some contact information (I think this might be to inform you if you win the Grand Prize raffle), and you’re good to go!

What Are the Goals?

Do you read a certain number of books? A certain number of pages? For a certain amount of time? Or do you need to do things that aren’t even reading at all, like attend a library program?

Summer Reading from my childhood just involved writing a list of the books you read and how many pages they were; prizes were set at certain page number goals, but basically you could just keep listing books for as long as you wanted. I like this system. It seems simple and straightforward to me. But now libraries seem to be getting ~creative~ with all kinds of different goals, I assume to make it “easier” to encourage people to join.  At my current library, you choose if you want to read 10 books, for 10 hours, or on 10 different days. You can earn bonus entries in the Grand Prize raffle if you read more, but the official end goals are so short I heard people come in and say they were done literally two days after they signed up.

Summer reading program 2008.

What Are the Prizes?

Do you get a sign up prize? Prizes at different steps along the way? A final end prize? What are the prizes?

When I was a kid, a free book was the “big” prize for reaching a certain goal. At my current library, you get a book just for signing up. The other prizes seem smaller, things like key chains, but you also get coupons for some free food around town, and there is a Grand Prize that will be raffled off (possibly a gift card, but this is unclear to me).

The book I got:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover

Has the Program Changed Over the Years?

If you’ve been doing the Summer Reading Program at the same library for several years, has it stayed the same or changed? Which version do you like best?

As I said, when I was a kid, my hometown library just had you list books and how many pages they were, but I believe they’ve experimented with different formats over the years. They seem to be currently testing out asking patrons to do things in addition to reading (like smiling at a friend or checking out a magazine–not reading it, just checking it out), which I don’t love. The point of Summer Reading is actually to help prevent “summer slide” for students, and smiling at someone doesn’t really achieve that. I also like the idea of libraries actually promoting reading.

Also, I  mentioned that my current library only really asks you to read 10 books. This is a good goal for people who don’t really read a lot and will find it challenging but do-able. It’s a really low goal for people who do read a lot, or for kids reading short books like picture books. I think it would be nice if the library found a better way to include both people who read a little and people who read a lot because the people who finished the challenge in two days or so seem pretty disappointed by the whole affair.



15 thoughts on “What Does the Summer Reading Program Look Like at Your Library?

  1. Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf says:

    I’ve seen two different SRPs. In my hometown, the SRP is typically only for kids ages 3-13, if I remember correctly. They tried teens one year, but there wasn’t a clear and easy way to make that work. It required some form of reporting with oral reports, essays or drawings, and then we would record the number of pages read. All picture books were 1 book, and otherwise 50 pages counted as one whole book. (Final calculations were up to the Children’s Librarian.) I remember the prize was one free pass to the Summer Book Club Carnival if you read 15 books, and more tickets or prizes could be earned if you read more than that. They had just moved that carnival indoors before I moved. Even though I’ve been too old to be in the program for a while now, I miss volunteering to listen to reports and help at the carnival.

    In the city I live in now, all ages can participate, but it’s the first time I’ve really noticed the age range. They track the amount of time you read, but I don’t know what the associated prizes are. I think time read is subjective, but I like the age range. Maybe I’ll participate next year.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Wow, that sounds unusually intense! I think, as an introverted child, I would have been really reluctant to do oral reports! It sounds kind of like a way to “make sure” people were actually reading and not jut claiming they were, but I think it’s really easiest just to trust people for something that should be kind of low-key (i.e. not school). I like the idea of a carnival, though!

      Yeah, I see people go back and forth over whether time or pages is better. I guess that’s why my library just lets you pick now.


  2. A Storm Of Pages says:

    My town only has a children’s Summer Reading Challenge (actually had to Google if we had one as I’ve never seen it anywhere) which is unfortunately – I always like a reading challenge and it would be nice to do one offline for a change!


  3. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I have not see. Our SRP in a few years since my son is always visiting his father at that time. I believe though that is it limited to younger children (although the library offers multiple events and incentives to encourage adults also). The last time we participated, it was based on the amount of books read and there were various prizes ranging from free tshirts and meals and local restaurants to books. The reading activity was all tracked on a large game board style poster.


  4. ashley says:

    The library where I volunteer has two summer reading programs, one for kids and one for teens. Kids have to be going into first grade to sign up and kids going into sixth grade have the option of doing the kids program or the teen program.


  5. purplebinderreview says:

    I work at a library where our SRP has changed a little bit each year I’ve worked here. However, it has always been open to all ages. The ages categories are split; childrens, teen, adult. Each group at first had different goals, such as read for a certain amount of time each week or reading x number of books. Now it is the same for all ages, everyone is asked to read for at least 20 minutes each day. This is supposedly so that children see their parents doing the same thing and will have the additional encouragement to do the challenge themselves.

    The end goal prizes have been pretty consistent over the years, except that two years ago everyone got a book for signing up and then a book at the end if they finished the end big goal. Now only children and teens get books after reading of 10 days, up to 5 times during the summer. Adults only get their name added to the end of summer drawing for ball park tickets, gift cards and hotel stays. Children and teens also have an end of summer drawing, which has occurred each year. Along with the drawing and books, children also get vouchers for food and tickets to plays, games and other local attractions.

    I get that adults don’t need the reading for combating “summer slide” but I still wish there was something more tangible during the summer for adult readers then wasn’t just a “your name has been added to a drawing with 1000 other people for 50 prizes”. I don’t really care about going to a game or maybe staying at a local hotel, I have two children at home and just an additional voucher to reduce the adult ticket to go to the zoo would be lovely. But that might just be me.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I like the idea of encouraging adults to read, as well, and I think it’s unfortunate some libraries don’t have a summer program for adults at all. I really like that my current library does, but I agree that, after you get the prizes for reading 10 books (which is not lot of books for many people) that “read more books for raffle entries” isn’t really that motivating. Like, I’m not expecting to win (AND they don’t even know what the prize is yet!)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. tomesandteablog says:

    At the library I work at, we have three SRPs for different age groups: children, teens, and adults. I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be a patron to participate, especially because we see a lot of people coming from other states and countries to live here over the summer. We have small prizes for when you finish each book, but if you complete five books for the summer you get entered into a raffle for a few different prizes. We have different prizes for the different age groups, but most of them are gift cards. Our SRP has definitely come a long way since it started, especially for the teens! We recently had a huge reconstruction of the YA section and it’s helped to bring in a lot more people. Every year we have a different theme for the reading program, and sometimes will have little games like scavenger hunts and puzzles for extra raffle entries.

    Thanks for this post! It’s nice to see that other libraries get involved in SRP, and I think it’s really important for teens and children. I feel like, as an adult I love to read in my free time because I never have time to do it, but I think teens and children aren’t always as enthusiastic about it because they have a lot of reading to do for school and only get a few months off to enjoy summer. In that case, I don’t think a little incentive is the worse thing in the world if it gets people reading. I really enjoy helping the teens and children who come in find new books that they might like.


  7. Artsyteen777 says:

    I like my summer reading program a lot and then I don’t like it….but I like it? For every book you read you get a pin and the pin goes on a little sash you are given and you stack up on pins by going to events as well. It’s really really fun and probably the only reason why I continued to read all summer which is the goal. At the end of the summer, each pin is used as a ticket for all kinds of raffle prizes. My brother and I won tickets to the zoo and more. I honestly had so much fun but then again they’re kind of bribing kids to read… but it works!!


  8. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    I think I like how your program has options (books, hours, or days) but that definitely is short. I agree the main purpose of a SRP should be to motivate people to read throughout the summer.

    I am working this summer as the children’s programmer at a rural public library with a high seasonal population so I could go on about this for awhile 😛 Our main program is Summer Reading Club for kids who have finished K-3. Every week we have 1.5 hours of activities, crafts, storytime, etc. that kids can drop in for (no registration or library card required). We have summer reading logs for all kids (not just SRC attendees). They record every 15 minutes of reading. The log has enough spaces for 15 minutes/day for the whole summer, but some kids rush to ‘finish’ theirs to get the Lego minifigure prize. This is what the library has done in previous years – I wish I had thought to suggest earlier to only distribute the prizes at the end of August, so perhaps the logs might be sustained throughout the summer. I like the idea of a book as a prize but I don’t think that’s feasible here. Some new things I’m introducing this summer are Signum University’s fantasy book club for middle schoolers (starting on Wednesday) and a teen summer reading bingo. (We also have a bingo for adults.)


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I think the choice is great, but they need to work on balancing the program so it can appeal both to casual readers and to prolific readers, so it’s not that either some people think it’s too “easy” and some people think it’s too “hard.” I honestly think they should consult someone who works in game design or something, since that’s a challenge a lot of games deal with.

      That sounds really fun! I also love the idea of the Signum University fantasy book club.

      I saw a librarian getting a great response asking for summer reading program book donations on Twitter, if that’s ever an avenue your library would be interested in pursuing.

      Liked by 1 person

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