Even though I have been involved with summer reading since I started working in libraries, this was my first summer as a youth librarian and technically "in charge" of summer reading at our tiny library. I thought as July starts to fade, it would be a good time for a bit of self-assessment of the programming and administration of Summer Reading. I would like to clearly state that I have no idea what I am doing and completely made stuff up as I went along or stole ideas/concepts from more talented librarians out there in library land. I also had a first rate director that talked me out my tree and support staff that completely pitched in and helped without being asked. I almost can't wait until next summer! (Since it is still July, I will keep that at "almost")
Keep the registration process as simple as possible.
I know everyone agrees with that statement in principle, but have you really thought about this? I made a full sheet of paper for my registration and made the font large and made lines big enough for even the sloppiest writer. Children who are just learning to write need more space than a small index card. Yes, that is more paper and probably more difficult to file, but kids like being able to register themselves and write their name.
I also only collected registration information that we absolutely needed, such as contact information and school. If you need information by all means ask for it, but really evaluate your information needs before you ask.
Keep the game simple.
This means that if you can't explain your summer reading program in one sentence, it is too complicated. My game is every time a child reads for 10 minutes, he or she can check off a box and hand it in. Done. I also don't care what a child reads. I actually heard of a librarian who didn't want to count graphic novels since it really wasn't "reading".
Describe programs thoroughly.
This one bit me in the rear end over and over this summer. Granted, there are always questions but I could have done better with program descriptions. One my more exciting programs (or so I thought) was a Skype story time with an author friend of mine in England. I set up the screen in our meeting room and had my friend read her books and talk to the kids about England. I got very few takers because I didn't explain the technology. Parents thought they had to have a computer and hookup from home. It was a good program that suffered because I didn't explain it well enough.
In couple of other programs, I didn't explain the intended audience well enough or describe the starting and ending times clearly. Even though it was for children, some programs were better suited to elementary and some are better for toddlers and preschoolers. After a few older kids rolled the eyes at my story time (totally geared to toddlers and babies) I realized my mistake. Lesson learned.
Finally, I realized it is important to have an overall objective for your summer reading program. Yes, I want kids to read, but I also want them to enjoy the library if they are NOT enthusiastic readers. Learning and reading is different for everyone. I want everyone to come to the library and try things out or learn something new.