Developing a summer school library community connection in a rural setting
We have all heard so much about the “summer slide” the past two or three summers. There are many instructive articles for parents from ed.gov, the Huffington Post, and the National Summer Learning Association. It leaves us wondering what are we, as school librarians, supposed to do about the problem. Our schools are closed for the summer. Often much needed cleaning and repairs take place throughout the summer. However, if you are like me, you hate to close your doors during the summer.
My school community of Bell Buckle, Tennessee, is a quaint, rural town that requires a 20-30 minute drive to the nearest public library. Our school is a boarding and day school and we have a great collection that has, in the past, remained untouched during the summer months. We decided in the summer of 2014 to begin hosting summer events to welcome our own school community and the town of Bell Buckle [pop. 400] to the school library. I noticed that a number of other school librarians are looking for that community connection this year and I thought that this might be a great topic for my first summer post. Two librarians that I follow who also have ideas this summer for preventing the summer slide through community connection are Jennifer LaGarde and Wendy Stephens.
Here is the basic schedule for our programming this summer. We placed the days in the middle of the week so that we can still take vacations and attend conferences on the weekends and it won’t interfere with the library events.
- The Webb School Library will be open Wednesdays in July to both the Webb and Bell Buckle Community
- July 1, 2015 / July 8, 2015 / July 15, 2015 / July 22, 2015 – 9 am – 3 pm [Children’s Story time 10:30 am]
- July 29, 2015 Hours 9 am – 12 noon [Children’s Back-to School Party 9:30 am -11:00am]
Lifelines – Help for Summer Programming
I got the idea for organizing my tips while having lunch this past Sunday with my Granny. I asked her if she still watched her game shows. One of her favorites is “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” The one thing that I always liked about the show, was the fact that you had help in the form of “Lifelines.” I always wondered if a Librarian played the game would they be better at playing than others. Our unofficial motto is “I don’t know all the answers, but I know where to find them.” This is not a quiz show but I used my “Lifelines” when I felt that I needed help setting up summer programming.
What does a college-prep librarian know about read-alouds?
My first Lifeline that I chose was “Phone-a-Friend.” These days that means chatting online with a friend from library school. Melissa Cairns is one of the best elementary school librarians I know, and I always went to her for tips on read-alouds back in grad school. I told her my dilemma about going from helping high school seniors transition to college during the school year and then trying to read-aloud to preschoolers during the summer. I asked for some solid read-alouds that I can plan to read for my summer events. Her advice “Mo Willems is my go-to guy for all things funny and his website pigeonpresents.com is great on the smart board. Go to the fun tab. Hot dog dress up and elephant and piggie dance game are awesome.”
Melissa’s Stand-alone favorites
- The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (awesome wordless movie you can find on Youtube and amazing iPad app from moonbot studios)
- The book with no pictures (be prepared to be a little silly with that one)
Melissa’s Series favorites
- Skippyjon Jones (a read aloud CD is included if they are too tongue twister-y)
- Scaredy Squirrel
- Mercy Watson (stories are a little longer but lots of fun)
“Ask the Audience”
Getting feedback from the community was really important this year. My first stop was at the Post Office. In rural communities the Post Office serves as a “little library” supplied by the State library system, and ours is two small shelves of best seller books. I talked with the Postmaster and she allowed me to hang flyers for my special events this summer. I also met with the vice-mayor and she sent my flyers out on the town listserv. I sought out other influential characters in town to ask about about community needs and about getting the word out to the town. The needs included everything from Internet access, Job search online, and something for the kids to do on a hot summer day.
“Ask the Expert”
Our closest local public library just opened in a beautiful new facility this summer. We are already planning to collaborate with this library’s staff in order to be a supplement of their services. We scheduled a tour of our facility for their staff and hope to promote their summer reading programs as well. I also plan to meet with my library school professor, Dr. Bivens, [MLIS Program Coordinator at Trevecca Nazarene University] who has some experience in community outreach in her own hometown.
New Game – Luxury Item [BTW – Granny doesn’t watch Survivor]
In preparation for a community outreach program we wanted to provide books for all ages. Building a children’s and community collection for my 6-12 library was a luxury and a lot of fun. We decided to use our annual Scholastic Book Fair to help build this collection. This year we were able to purchase the entire Magic Treehouse series and the Scholastic Accelerated Reader pack for Grade 4. These were gaps in our collection. We were accepting donations and many of the donations were fabulous picture books. We also are a 6-12th grade school so we had this age group well covered.
I encourage you to find ways to help your students and your community combat summer reading loss or the “summer slide.” If you cannot open your library take a look at some of Wendy Stephen’s tips for collaborating with your public library.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.