As I see graduation images scroll across my Facebook feed, I’m reminded that schools wrap up the academic year at different dates across the country. To explore this transition from school to summer, I’ve been visiting with some booksellers about different events they schedule specifically for summer break.
We’ll kick off this series with Vroman’s Bookstore and their summer reading program. Here’s how it works:
- To participate, kids stop by the store to pick up a special bookmark created just for the summer reading program.
- Throughout the summer, participants write on the bookmark the titles of at least 10 books that they read over the summer.
- They’re also asked to write up short reviews about three of the books they read.
- Finally, they need to attend (and check in at) one of Vroman’s events during that time. The event can be any of the regular storytimes, book clubs, or author events that Vroman’s offers, or one of the special events offered as part of the program.
Danielle Borsch is the store manager at Vroman’s Hastings Ranch location. She was the children’s department manager during last year’s summer reading program. “Once they show us their bookmark, turn in their reviews, and have attended an event, they get prizes,” she says. “We also try to do an end-of-summer reading party event.”
Not only does Vroman’s offer a summer reading program, it’s also themed.
“Last year, we played with the ‘Awesome Mix’ idea from Guardians of the Galaxy and had them create a book ‘playlist’ for their list of 10 books. The bookmark looked like a cassette tape,” says Borsch. “We did a Jam in Your Jammies event where the kids could bring an original or favorite short piece of writing to read aloud or perform something if they play an instrument. Singer/songwriter Emily Arrow led the group in a group sing-along storytime and talked a little about songwriting, too.”
Borsch says that this past year was their first attempt at the new format. In the past, they tried to require a mix of recommended books and reader’s choice, but now participants can read whatever books they want. “Also, we used to only do the reading part, but it makes it too easy for kids to just write down titles without really having done the reading,” she adds.
To market the event, Vroman’s sends a series of e-blasts to their subscribers, features a splash in their monthly newsletter, distributes flyers at the store, and creates large displays to promote both the theme and store recommendations. “We have regular teachers who do summer school pick up packets for their whole classes every year, too,” says Borsch. “And we tell kids and parents about it throughout the summer, since you can join in anytime.”
During the “Awesome Mix” summer, Vroman’s had 250+ kids do at least part of the program, and 90 kids completed the program and received prizes: a $5 gift card to Vroman’s, advanced reading copies of published books, plus a drawing of a prize donated by a community partner, like gift certificates, free art classes, or free desserts.
“I think our favorite thing was adding the event requirement,” says Borsch. “We have so many regular events offered that it didn’t put us out to add a few extra fun events, and also there’s enough going on all summer that everyone should be able to attend at least one–many kids attended several. It was a way for us to promote all of the kids’ programming we offer in a new way.”