I met this week with regional colleagues about summer reading and summer learning. Many libraries continue to offer a Summer Reading Program, while other communities are launching Summer Learning Programs or highlighting their library’s summer efforts under a broader umbrella of summer learning.

Youth services librarians are a passionate bunch and this conversation was no different. Some individuals feel strongly that it continues to be the library’s primary role to promote reading and encourage reading – specifically for pleasure – during the summer months when students aren’t in school. Others saw reading as only one of the ways their libraries are supporting learning during the summer—also offering hands-on programs, interest-based groups, and volunteer and paid employment opportunities.

Most of the disagreement in our meeting (and we’ll keep talking about this because it’s a change) seemed to be about the word “learning” – and public libraries’ role in supporting recreational reading – and other interest-based activities that children and teens may not get to experience in school.

We passionately want young people to learn to love reading for the sake of its enjoyment, not because they are required to read to complete an assignment. We’ve developed and launched many programs and services specifically around this value—and should continue to!

There are many ways to learn – it doesn’t always look like sitting in a classroom. Why do we – and more importantly, why do students and families think the word “learning” means required or boring? Libraries must be part of the effort to re-claim this word –highlighting the variety of types of learning – including the interest and passion-based learning that is necessary for students to succeed?

If the concept of connected learning is still a bit of a mystery to you (you’re not alone!), think about it in the context of your summer programs at the library. As Mimi Ito writes in “Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design: “Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic, career success or civic engagement”

Aren’t the participants in your summer reading program pursuing their personal interests and passions by selecting the books they want to read? Aren’t teen volunteers learning valuable career skills for the future? Aren’t families who meet the K-9 dogs from your community learning about civic engagement?

Rather than disagreeing about “reading” or “learning,” shouldn’t we be thinking about how library staff can better articulate connections between interests and learning to children, teens and families? Then they’ll be really connected. To libraries and, more importantly, to learning.

Find more resources on connected learning, and how to go beyond our traditional role in YALSA’s report, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action as well as connectedlearning.tv

About Maureen Hartman

I am the Division Manager for Strategic Services at the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota and a former Board member for YALSA.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation