How Our Summer Reading Program Works

We're about half-way through with the summer reading program at my library, yay! I thought I'd share how our children's summer reading program works. My system also has separate reading programs for teens, adults, and staff members that each work a little bit differently.

Summer Reading by the Numbers
Starting Date: Monday, June 10 (first day for sign-ups)
Prizes Begin: Monday, June 17 (also the first week of storytimes, although each branch designated a program as it's "Kick Off Event" during the first week of SRP)
Ending Date: Saturday, August 10 (last day for prizes)
Total number of kids we expect to sign-up at my branch: 2,000 (approximately, we're at about 1,950 as of Friday)
Books purchased to give away this year at my branch: 1,262
Books left over from last year: 254
Total number of books available to be given away: 1,516 (there will be leftovers)

Reading Logs (Click on the pictures to enlarge them) 
Outside of Reading Log
When kids come in to sign up, we hand them one a numbered reading log. They write their name on the outside and we explain the program. Kids can choose between writing the titles of the books they read (or listen to someone else read) on the lines inside or make a check mark in the box for every 20 minutes that they read. As a sign-up prize, we give away a reusable shopping bag with the library's logo on it, while supplies last. When kids sign up, they can write their name on a paper worm (made with an Ellison die-cut machine) and add it to our bulletin board.

In addition to tracking books or time, the kids can do activities instead of reading where the sand pails are on the log. The activities are listed on the inside flap of the log. They are:

  • Turn the TV or computer off for 24 hours
  • Come to a fun library program or movie
  • Sing "If You're Happy and You Know It, Dig a Hole" for the library staff
  • Find books about diggers and dump trucks at the library
  • Draw a picture of an animal that lives underground and bring it to the Library. (We hang these up on a bulletin board, if the child lets us.)
  • Visit our website and view a Tumblebook
  • Play outside in the sand, bike, or walk. 
  • Demonstrate your "worm" dance moves
  • Inside of Reading Log
  • Plant or help in the garden. Check out a book on gardening. 

Getting Prizes
At the bottom of the first page, the kids can come in to get their half-way prize (a coupon for an ice cream cone at McDonald's.) They can do this right when they get to that spot, or they can wait until they finish the second page and collect all of their prizes at once. If a child cannot have one of the food prizes, we have a box of alternative small prizes (bookmarks, etc.) that they can pick from instead.

At the bottom of the second page, the kids have officially finished the summer reading program. They get a coupon for a free pretzel at Auntie Anne's, a cookie from Subway, and we give all of the kids a paperback book. There is a lot of selection (27 different chapter book titles, which I personally think is an overwhelming amount of selection) and we have board books, picture books, early readers, and chapter books (including some nonfiction) to choose from.

The last day to pick up their prizes is Saturday, August 10th. If they finish before then, we give our Read 4 More Logs, which work the same way but are on blue slips of paper. These are entered into the patron's choice of two drawings: for a $25 gift card to Target or Meijer (this is Michigan, after all) or 5 tickets to the local zoo. I think it's always great to give an experience as a prize rather than something disposable that will be lost, so I love the zoo tickets idea.

Keeping Statistics
We number the reading logs to track how many kids have signed-up so far at our branch. First thing on Monday morning, before we open, the staff writes down how many logs have been taken. If a child loses a log, they are given an unnumbered one as a replacement.

To track how many kids finish, we see how many books are left at the end of the summer (the inventory is tracked by category: board books, early readers, chapter books, etc.). Leftover books are kept to give away next year OR sometimes added to our book club collection


  1. I love this! In particular, the varied activities that go along with the reading experience. I am revamping my summer reading program next year and this would be a great model to work from. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  2. Thanks for sharing how your library operates the SRP. I always love hearing how other libraries handle it.


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