What is Summer Learning? Surprise, you have been doing it without even knowing it! In recent years, there has been a move to transition Summer Reading into Summer Learning. Why? Because libraries have naturally transitioned into third spaces. We are advocates of combating the summer slide, which primarily affects disadvantaged youth, by providing hands-on activities and resources that support them. These materials can be in the form of books, audiovisuals, and e-media. Summer Learning appeals to every type of learner because it is all-inclusive. The teen that struggles with reading but enjoys the library and its atmosphere knows that they are just as welcome and intimidation is null as the avid reader. “Tickets” and “participation logs” reflect this change by adding additional ways to participate by including activities that teens and children can do in and outside of the library.
Those of us who work closely with youth are well informed about our summer program, but other departments in your library may not be. It is your job to educate staff so they can make the public aware of what Summer Learning activities you offer. Take the initiative by sending out an e-mail blast to your coworkers or ask to present at one of your staff meetings to make everyone aware of what Summer Learning is and what that looks like in your library. Emily Samos, Urban Libraries Council, presented her 5 Strategies to building a Summer Learning culture throughout your library as a part of the Making the Transition from Summer Reading to Summer Learning YALSA Webinar, November 2016.
1. Engage team members across the library.
2. Connect Summer Reading with other library services.
3. Start Planning in September [for next year].
4. Initiate and cultivate partnerships with schools, museums, and other partners.
5. Plan programs with clear learning goals.
What Does Summer Learning Look Like in Action?
Reading Public Library—Reading, PA
At the Reading Public Library, we transitioned to Summer@RPL to encompass all that we offer for children, teens, and adults throughout the summer. As that relates to teens particularly, our teen ticket has three activities that participants can complete, “Read,” “Participate in a Teen Program,” and “Volunteer/Do A Good Deed in Your Community.” We encourage them to try all three but note in the rules that they may do any combination. They earn level prizes, can put in for prize packs, and submit for the grand prize after completing all the levels. The “level up” approach keeps them engaged all summer long. Our programs are a combination of fun, entertaining, informative, and always engaging—from special performances to daily STEAM programs, special guests, and workshops to prepare them for the year ahead and beyond. Performances include a Bollywood interactive performance during Family Night. Our STEAM programs include a Maker Event and weekly opportunities to participate in an engineering program with Snapology where children and teens will be guided through hands-on activities using things they already love: LEGO® bricks, K’Nex, and technology. SAT Prep will be taught by an instructor with more than 23 years of experience teaching the SATs. And our Job Training workshop will be instructed by the Department of Labor and Industry.
Boyertown Community Library—Boyertown, PA
At Boyertown Community Library, Lisa Rand has many cool programs in the works. She is starting a new series called, “Try It Out.” Barrio Alegria, a community development organization that utilizes art as a platform for change, will teach the teens Latin Dance Basics, with an evening salsa class and weekend bachata lesson. A Yoga instructor will lead three afternoon and evening sessions. These programs have flexible times in hopes of accommodating potential participants’ various schedules.
In the past, Lisa has held Ukulele Basics classes provided by a local music shop, Funky Frets. Teens attended three sessions, which gave them a solid base of learning that could be continued with paid lessons, practicing independently, or through the help of resources such as YouTube. “I received great feedback on this program. Teens were glad for a chance to try something new, free of charge. They could approach the learning opportunity as simply something fun to do, with very low commitment. However, meeting for three sessions gave enough of a taste that some teens discovered a new hobby to pursue,” Lisa said.
“When choosing programs for teens, two of the questions I ask myself are Will it be fun? and Would my teens have access elsewhere? We have a wonderful dance school in our neighborhood, but Latin dance is not a part of their curriculum. During the school year, our teens may not have access to Latin dance instruction. On the other hand, for those teens who already love Latin dance, this will be a chance to learn from a live instructor.”
“For the yoga class, I wanted to offer a format where someone could come once to try, or return another time if they enjoy the experience. This program is a way to provide tools for stress-management and wellness but in a low key, recreational setting. We are not a gym or a PE class, so trying a new physical activity here could be welcoming for patrons who might not try on their own.” She says.
Fleetwood Area Public Library—Fleetwood, PA
Stacy Lauks at Fleetwood Areas Public Library has a very cool program series in the works called Practice Makes Progress. “Summer is a great time to explore new things but…it is also important to practice your skills in subjects that you love in order to progress,” she says. Each week during Summer Exploration, patrons will have the opportunity to participate/submit work in a designated subject area such as an art sketchbook, community music recital & community music evaluation, graphic history organizer, community science fair project, or writing submissions. Each submission category includes a positive-based assessment from a member of the community that works in that particular field.
Fleetwood Area Library decided to focus on exploring new things because summer is a great time to “explore what you want when you want, how you want,” she says. “New things are exciting and great, but there are some things that students need to continue practicing during summer. Practice Makes Progress addresses this dichotomy, connects students/library to the community, and is still flexible enough that students can use their practice to explore their interests.”
To make their goal come to fruition, they picked subject areas and coordinated dates; got community members to donate their time to review submissions and plan programs; advertised with the school/private teachers; and are now waiting for the fun to begin. “Can’t wait to see what happens,” she says.
This is what Summer Learning looks like in action. Each of us has a different vision as evident by the examples provided. Nevertheless, we share common goals; we want our youth to excel in areas that we have noticed need developing or may spark an interest and have all found an approach to guide them. We believe in quality experiences for our teens that include using partnerships to our advantage by asking members of our community to give of their time and talents to provide our teens with hands-on experiences, supporting the resources that libraries offer.