Confessions of a Children's Librarian: Storytime, STEAM, Commentary, & More
Friday, May 19, 2017
So I'm guessing many of you are either (1) in full-blown panic mode trying to get everything ready for summer reading, (2) trying to squeeze in some time off to recharge before summer reading, (3) or simply enjoying the last week or two of calm before the storm. Today is the last day of school for our public schools, so it will start getting busier here next week, then hit full force in June!
Back in my days as a page in the children's department, summer reading meant a HUGE increase in my workload, and was exhausting, and often frustrating, with all the summer camp groups that would come in and destroy the department while their counselors sat in a corner chatting amongst themselves and playing on their phones. In my current position as a paraprofessional in the Outreach department, summer reading doesn't affect me as much as others. At my level I'm not involved in any of the decision-making or major responsibilities of getting everything planned and ready, and since I'm only in the library at a service desk one afternoon a week, I don't have to deal with the increased chaos every day. I generally just keep doing the same thing, going out to daycares and doing storytime.
I do see some changes, though. At some of the daycares, enrollment goes up during the summer; at others it goes down. At ALL of the daycares the kids are much harder to engage and keep focused, much more chatty and wiggly, in the summer! I will drop off summer reading materials, and help deliver their prize books at the end. The one big change for me this summer is that I will also be doing several school-aged STEAM programs. Last year I did one; this year I think we have 7 scheduled so far! It will be hectic, but I love having a chance to do something different! I am able to repeat programs since they are all different groups, but I do need to come up with two new program ideas for one place.
I do sympathize will my peers for whom summer is much more chaotic, demanding, and stressfull. Some libraries make summer reading such a circus, with major events almost everyday, I don't see how anyone does it. Sometimes I wonder if that's all really necessary, and does it really accomplish anything other than increasing our numbers? I can't help but question sometimes if the original intent of summer reading has been lost.
Summer reading was originally supposed to address the "summer slide", but now it seems like it's more of a numbers game, increasing circ stats and program attendance, rather than increasing literacy. Some studies have suggested that incentivized reading at best does not really translate to increased reading later on, and at worst may actually discourage voluntary reading. My library offerred some really cool prizes last year, and "participation" definitely increased, if you define participation as turning in a reading log. But was there really any more reading going on? I don't really think so, just more cheating.
What's the right answer? I don't really know. When libraries are fighting for funding and proving they are still relevant, statistics are the only hard evidence we have, so it's not practical to say they don't matter, but I would like to see some of the obsession and pressure to increase stats, and be "bigger and better" each year relaxed and the focus put back on learning and literacy. In particular, I would love to see more research about incentivized reading and the effectiveness of different summer reading programs, and more research-based summer reading program design.
But, it is what it is for now, and I do enjoy seeing more people at the library, in particular the now school-aged kids who used to come to storytime, and I love the chance to do some other types of programming! It will be busy, but a good busy! Happy Summer, everyone!
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