A Very Mysterious Summer Reading Program

by Faythe Arredondo, Tulare’ ‘ County’ Library

In September 2012, I sat down with my new Teen Advisory Group (TAG), and asked their thoughts on the two summer reading program themes our library was thinking of participating in. As expected, they were not thrilled with the options I gave them.’  I asked them if they were interested in creating their own summer reading program and they were slightly stunned the library was willing to give them that much freedom.

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I gave them a tough love speech about how much work it would be and they would have to adhere to deadlines I set out for them. They assured me they could do it and I gave them one month to submit their theme ideas; we would then vote on the themes and set out on planning the program. I was just about ready to close the meeting when something amazing happened: they all started talking and an hour later the entire summer reading program was planned.

They decided on a murder mystery summer (A Summer to Die For) and would write scripts to film scenes, acting as clues for the rest of the summer. They decided to loosely base their murder mystery on the game Clue.’  They borrowed the colors (Scarlet, Mustard, Green, Peacock, Plum and White) and added more characters so everyone had a role for a total of nine roles.

The idea was simple: a bored reporter wanted to make a splash and went to the newly rich Miss Bodie asking to do a story on her. She refused and he bugged her office to learn all her secrets.’  Once he learned enough he decided to invite all the parties wronged by Miss Bodie to the Mystery Inn, watch the sparks fly and make a name for himself.’  Miss Bodie ends up dead just hours after arriving at the hotel.’  The six main characters all fashioned the characters after themselves in some way and all would have ample motive to kill Miss Bodie.

The TAG wrote scenes that would explain their connection to Miss Bodie, but would also film six special videos for the summer reading participants, assigned to their teams randomly.’  These video diaries were password protected and participants would have to find me in order to look up the password clues in specially assigned books.

The plan was to spend the fall months working on graphics, storylines and writing scripts.’  That worked…in a way.’  I had one teen working on graphics that would be used on the website, reading logs, and flyers.’  Another was drawing each character involved in the summer for the posters, bookmarks, and specially designed t-shirts.’  I thought that would be the most difficult aspect of the program, but it turned out to be the easiest.

As December approached, I was starting to get very nervous since no scenes had been filmed. I wanted them to be done as soon as I possible because I knew there would be a lot of technical things I needed to figure out on my end, as well as build seven separate websites (one for each color and the main site).’  It got to the point in the middle of December when I thought, “Well, I have the graphics and the programs planned so it won’t be a total failure. No one knows the details of what was supposed to happen.” And then one of the main characters got grounded for six months and couldn’t participate in the summer reading program and I really started to panic.’  Luckily I had a volunteer I was able to bribe in to taking over the vacant role.’  We changed the schedule to accommodate her availability and ease her reluctance of being on camera.

When school was let out for winter break right before Christmas, the teens started coming into the library and right after Christmas they started filming.’  In a two and a half week period, they filmed 90% of the videos needed for summer. Once again, my TAG shattered any expectations and got the job done.’  I started building the websites needed to support the program and breathed a sigh of relief.’  Some of the teens even used their own devices to film their video diaries at home.’  After the initial filming boon, we filmed as needed, every Saturday I worked.

In April, I started to upload and encode and password protect the videos as needed to the various websites. In May, all but one of the videos were filmed and uploaded when I realized that I had to rework the original video order that we had planned.’  The video diaries still supported the overall goal of the summer reading program, but not in the order we had originally intended.’  I had to call some of them “flashbacks” and reorder their published dates at the last minute.

It is hard to gauge how many of the teens who signed up for the summer reading program actually participated in the murder mystery aspect.’ I know I gave clues to the same five teens over the course of the summer and the mystery was solved by one of the youngest participants. Looking back, there are so many things I would do differently or refine: reacquaint myself with iMovie (and learn Final Cut Pro), have all the group scenes or scenes with more than one character filmed at the same time.’ The clothes the teens are wearing in the video range from extreme winter to extreme summer. We should have focused on sticking to a “production schedule” that worked around everyone’s busy schedules. I feel like we really missed an opportunity for the teens to get out into the community and talk about their own program. We had tee-shirts made so the teens could be walking billboards, but we should have had them put up posters in local businesses and be ambassadors at all their schools. ‘ I’m hoping next year that the teens will be more involved in the outreach portion of summer reading. It will be interesting to see if having them more involved will make a bigger impact on the involvement of other teens.

The teens were very proud of the work they did and are already hard at work on summer Reading Program 2014. Since we didn’t have as many participants as we liked, we are going to post all the videos to one website next summer and not require passwords.’  It was a great experience and I hope we are able to refine and make summer more of a success.

Read more from’ Faythe’ at YALSA’s YA literature blog, The Hub

 

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