Transliteracy in your Summer Reading Program

It’s that time of year again when Children’s Librarians in public libraries all across the nation are busy making their plans for the summer reading program. You remember those, right? Read 10 books and get a cheap prize like a READ pencil made in China?  Aw c’mon,  everyone has those fond memories, nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when the public library was all about BOOKS!
I’d like to share some ideas about ways to incorporate Transliteracy into your library’s summer reading program. Or at least share with you how we are trying to do it at MPOW.
When I started at my library a few years ago, I sat down with the Children’s Librarians and we talked about what the goal of the summer reading program (SRP) was. I wanted us to step back from the traditions and examine the core values we desired in an SRP. We agreed that we wanted it to be about reading, sure, but also about creativity, discovery and FUN. So, we set out to restructure our program to focus on those elements and embrace multiple literacies. At the time, I had never even heard the term Transliteracy. Yet, what we came up with actually supports it! We created a Passport that is filled with about 30 Reading Quests (though not all quests are actually about reading). Quests are activities that ask kids to read, think and create through various platforms. Children record their answers and ideas in their very own mini Library passport. Over the last 2 years Quests have included:

  • picture of child's drawingRead a book set in the future (read)
  • What is the coolest invention of your lifetime so far and why? (write)
  • Draw a futuristic car and name it (draw)*
  • Draw a map of your bedroom. Be sure to include a key (draw – spatial)
  • Take a picture of yourself holding your favorite book this summer and email it to the Children’s Library (digital)
  • Watch a movie about a different time period (visual)
  • Use Google Translate to translate the first line of the book you’re reading into another language (digital)

*in case you’re interested, the cars of the future will have ice cream machines in them, if kids have anything to say about it.  

And so on. Some quests could be done many different ways like Find out when the town of Darien was founded. Some kids read it on the town marker sign, some went to Town Hall, some looked it up on Wikipedia, some IM’d a Librarian – all kinds of different ways to answer! When kids had completed Quests, we stamped their passports and entered them into raffle drawings. The kids wrote and drew in their passports all summer long and the more Quests they completed, the more chances they had to win in raffle drawings for prizes. Instead of spending a ton of money on cheap prizes, we spent our money on prizes they would be willing to compete for – iPod Shuffles, Flip video cameras and this year, an iPad! Everyone got a free book prize just for singing up and we had other ways to win prizes throughout the summer.

The program as we run it now has been a HUGE success. The parents have raved about how their kids are eager to participate, the family can participate together or the kids can go alone. Each family is different. It also levels the playing field. A 3rd grader can zip through series books lickety-split while a 5th grader may take all summer to get through a dense chapter book. With the passport, kids can imagine and create at whatever level is right for them.

We also ask the kids to write reviews and tag items in our catalog (SOPAC). We’ve gotten our school librarians to help us spread the word and all the kids have been shown how to do this simple activity. We’ve shown them how they can use tags to create custom reading lists and ask them to write reviews in the catalog in order to receive an invitation to our finale event where they get to meet a popular author and get an autographed copy of his/her book.

For kids who couldn’t come into the library to check in, they could enter their quests online through a simple form we created using WuFoo to be entered into raffle drawings. I think our web portion of the program has much room for improvement, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got!

You know who has a GREAT summer reading website that also incorporates the ideas we talk about here? The NYC Summer Reading website. They have the traditional elements of summer reading available digitally, but also include elements of social media and gaming through the use of avatars, the ability to “Like” another child’s review and win badges. I see this activity as embracing a few literacies beyond simple traditional print literacy and have been impressed with it’s first year out and will watch to see how it evolves.

Summer Reading Programs are a great way to experiment with Transliteracy. What does your program look like? Would kids want to participate or do they only do it because their moms make them?

8 Responses to “Transliteracy in your Summer Reading Program”

  1. Transliteracy, Transmedia and Mindfulness | Christina Jupp's Page Says:

    [...] interactive. Ideas from this class really got me thinking and I started researching and looking for summer reading programs that went beyond the traditional “read some stories and get a prize” approach. It was [...]

  2. Technology and SRCs: Hub vs. Heart | ALSC Blog Says:

    [...] in the KidLib blogosphere around summer reading and why we do it.  My interest piqued when I read Transliteracy in Your Summer Reading Program by Gretchen Caserotti at the Libraries and Transliteracy blog.  I learned about another [...]

  3. Gird Your Loins: Summer Reading Begins! | Says:

    [...] onslaught- that has us speaking ourselves raspy after hours of talking about books, prizes, and passports, this torrent of activity that has us sneaking a quick lunch on the fly before jumping back into [...]

  4. Terry Doherty Says:

    This is so awesome and I love these ideas. Wish I had seen this before our summer vacation started. Some of these we could do at home with our 9YO! PS – found you thanks to the Book Chook.

  5. Dorothee Says:

    We have actually been running a similar reading program at our library for the last five years. Kids pair activities (such as build a reading tent, read a poem/non-fiction book/back of the crereal box, draw a dragon, tell someone a story, read to your cat) with actual reading. Both parents and kids love it! For each increment of reading paired with activities kids earn “library bucks” and are enrouraged to save them to “buy” their own prizes. They can blow their money each time (stickers, pencils or such) or save for the cooler prizes (hardcover books or toys). I do like you idea of incorporating digital task (take picture and email/post).

    • Gretchen Caserotti Says:

      Great ideas! The parents really do love the activitites don’t they? I think it makes it feel more engaging and the kids are more involved without a doubt.

  6. Kathleen Johnson Says:

    I love, love, love these ideas. Thanks.

    • Gretchen Caserotti Says:

      I’m glad! We have amazing children’s librarians with tons of great ideas. Brainstorming this program is a highlight of my year!


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