A Family Affair: How Reading Together Lead to a Successful Summer Reading Program

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Friday, September 14, 2018
The air is cooler. The pools are closed. The kids are back to school. As much as I hate to admit this, summer is officially over. Summer memories often linger for a long time, and at the Kansas City Public Library, we’re so excited to report that our 2018 Summer Reading Program was one of our most successful ever.

From May 25 to July 31, 2018, more than 5,000 patrons took part in Rock & Read, the Library’s summer reading program for both youth and adults. We encouraged children, teens, and adults to read five books during that period and log their progress. They received a free book when they signed up and a cool prize once they finished their five books.

Our patrons love to read because we saw a 41% increase in participants this year! We had 5,158 participants, up from 3,669 in 2017. That’s fantastic news. From eBooks to graphic novels to comic books to paperbacks to hardcovers, you showed us that you love to read, Kansas City! We’re so happy about that! 

Nearly every KCPL branch saw increases. But if we’re keeping score (and admittedly sometimes we do because it’s fun), there were some branches that stood out. Take a look:

•    North-East Branch: 180% increase
•    Waldo Branch: 177% increase 
•    Southeast Branch: 142% increase
•    Lucile H. Bluford Branch: 100% increase

Crystal Faris, director of youth and family engagement, has been overseeing youth summer reading programs at the Library for more than a decade. Some years the program draws well, some years not as much. Faris says the key to success is when the library asks people what works for them.

“This summer we listened to our Library patrons and offered them a self-driven reading experience that was the same for all ages from babies through seniors. Everyone who signed up selected a free book to keep. Combine that with a fun music theme and exciting programs at each branch, as well as caring library staff, and participation numbers grew significantly.”

Another reason for success was the easy way for patrons to log their books. Each branch provided paper sheets for readers to fill out and turn in, but if you wanted something a little more tech savvy you could log onto the library’s website and fill out the form there. Not only could participants add books, but they could also choose to have recommendations sent to their inboxes.

This is the second year that KCPL has merged the youth and adult summer reading programs. The goal was to pave the way for people of all ages in our city to experience the joy of reading and growing. That meant a lot of families sitting down to read together. Whether it was a bedtime story, curling up with books on a rainy afternoon, or enjoying a good book while taking a family vacation, our patrons let us know that they love summer reading in a big way.

Of course, just because summer is over it doesn’t mean it’s time to put your library card in the back of your wallet. Keep it handy so you can keep reading as the weather gets cooler. Think of it - curling up under a warm blanket with another great book as the air gets crisper - how great does that sound? The Kansas City Public Library has plenty of physical and eBooks to keep you entertained. Then next summer you’ll be ready to earn your pint glass.