Ah, summer and the teen summer reading program. It’s one of my favorite times in the library. I love that the library provides a safe place for teens to spend some of their summer hours—a place where they can read, use the computers, hang out, and ‘ go to fun programs. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found that as much as I love the summer reading program, preparing for and promoting it can be just as fun. School visits are the best!

In my district, school visits are usually an all day event, and for the teen summer reading program we normally only visit middle schools. We set up in the school media center and classes come in and visit us throughout the day. It’s a very fun, but very long, day. The time allotted to us varies by school, but is usually about 30-50 minutes per group of kids. We spend the first half of the visit talking about the summer reading program (dates, prizes, programs over the summer, etc.) and the second half booktalking and giving the teens ideas for books to read.

This was my first year doing school visits as a librarian for my district. I’ve been having a blast meeting with teens, telling them about the summer reading program, and booktalking some great books. I have some really great colleagues and I’ve learned a ton while doing school visits this year, so I thought I’d share some tips and tricks to help other new librarians.

  1. Bring candy! Bribery works, and handing out candy for participation gets the teens more involved in, and excited about, your presentation. One of my colleagues gives a piece of candy to every teen who has their library card on them and can show it to us, which is a lot of fun. We also give out candy when we booktalk books—if a teen requests that we talk about a book, they get a piece of candy.
  2. Nonfiction, nonfiction, nonfiction. I personally love novels, but have found that bringing nonfiction is a great way to involve more reluctant readers. I brought Bat Boy Lives! and a book on Phineas Gage this year and both generated a lot of interest. A coworker brought Elizabeth Berkley’s new advice book, Ask Elizabeth, which was also very popular.
  3. Compelling covers are key. There are a few books that I love but don’t have the best covers. I’ve learned to just leave those at home. They never get asked about, and I get sad that I don’t get to share a favorite book with everyone.
  4. Bring more books than you think you’ll need. I’ve found that certain books get asked about over and over again, and I need a break from booktalking them. I will switch them out for other books periodically throughout the day.
  5. Different formats are a good thing. We try to bring a wide variety of formats—graphic novels, nonfiction, audio books, etc.—to have a book that everyone could be interested in. I’ve found with audio books, the trick is to also bring the physical book as well. Audio book covers aren’t always as easy to read or see, and depending on your vendor sometimes aren’t very interesting, so it’s nice to display the actual book on top of the audio book. Then when someone asks about it, I make sure to mention that I listened to the book and loved the audio version. If your library has Playaways, that’s also a great option to share with teens who may have never heard of them before.
  6. Joke around and don’t be afraid of being a geek. When we asked our Teen Advisory Board what they wanted from school visits to make them more exciting, one of our teens said, “More nerdy library jokes.”

As you might have already guessed, school visits are one of my favorite things to do—it’s a great time, a great way to promote the library and literacy, and is one of the many times where I can’t believe I actually get paid to do something so awesome. These are just some of my favorite tips for school visits—what are some things that really help you and make your school visits great?

2 Thoughts on “Summer Reading School Visits: Tips and Tricks

  1. Leigh B on May 27, 2011 at 9:48 am said:

    Great blog entry! Kristin’s joy and enthusiasm are infectious.

  2. Andrea on June 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm said:

    I LOVE school visits!

    For the first few days of booktalks, I see the top-most level readers and the bottom most level readers in groups of no more than 10 or 12. Next week, I will be camped out in the media center and I will see groups of 2 or 3 classes at a time. I have my schedule set up very much so like the one you described. However, for this week of classes, I found that what the students LOVE, especially the lower level readers (and if you have the printing money for it), is a color printed out sheet of all the covers, titles, and authors of the books I bring for them. I do this for several reasons: 1) so they can get a better look at the covers and pick out/circle/star the ones they want to hear more about and then they ask me to describe them; 2) so when they come in the library they’re not looking for “the book with the phone on the cover about vampires” (iDrakula, natch); and 3) so they will have the correct information without having to feel embarrassed about asking to repeat an author name, misspelling the title, etc.On the back of these, I include my name, phone, website, some dates of programs, even a map of the school in relation to the library.

    And I love booktalking non-fiction! I was just in a school today and brought Teen Cuisine, Chucks! (about Chuck Taylors), and The Big Book of Gross Stuff. Their teacher got a HUGE lesson from that last one about exactly what a “dingleberry” is. Obviously, hilarity ensued. Educational for everyone!

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