What's the best way to inform children and their parents about the public library? Meet them where they're at! For children that means in the classroom and, believe it or not, getting into your local schools may be easier than you think. If you are not already visiting your schools regularly, just give one of their main offices a call to see if you need permission from the principal to schedule visits or if you can contact the teachers directly.
Be sure to ask if any flyers you hope to distribute need to be signed off on by the principal or superintendent.
Below is a standard script for visiting classrooms to promote summer reading, but it can easily be adapted for any season or theme:
"Hello! My name is Marta and I am a youth librarian at __________. Raise your hand if you have been to the __________ Library. What did you visit the Library to do? Raise your hand if you're willing to share with us!...
You can do all those things and more at the Library! I'm here to tell you what's going on at the Library this summer. This summer's theme is "On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!," so we're exploring sports, being active, and exercising your mind. Do you have a favorite sport you like to watch or play?
I've brought along one of my favorite books about...[Read Aloud for Grades K-3]
I've brought along some sports trivia to test your knowledge. I'm going to split the room into 2 teams and we'll see which one knows the most...[Grades 4-8]
The best part of summer is our Summer Reading Club, and here’s how it works. Stop by the library or go to our website to create a reading log. Record the number of minutes you read and you'll automagically get your named entered into the grand prize drawings for every 30 minutes. So the more you read the better your chances of winning! This year's grand prizes include gift cards to some great places. I’m going to hold up a picture of each store's logo, guess which store it is...Everyone who participates will get a free book each month and a coupon for things like ice cream sundaes or laser tag/roller rink.
The best part is that you can read anything you want! What books have you enjoyed reading or do you want to read this summer?...If you need some ideas here are some great options...[4 or 5 Book Talks]
In addition to winning prizes just for reading, there are fun events and activities at the Library every week. Programs just for you include... I am giving your teacher flyers to send home with you that look like this [show flyer]. It lists all the programs I just mentioned plus information about how to sign up for Summer Reading Club. It also includes the Library's contact information. Share this flyer with your parents so they know what's going on! Everything is FREE to attend, including getting a library card to borrow materials.
We start the summer with a kick-off party on... Ok, now you know all about what's going on at the Library this summer. Do you have any questions about the Library or the Summer Reading Club?"
In addition to distributing flyers, we make up bookmarks that list the book talk titles. You would be surprised how many kids from even the most unenthusiastic classes show up at the Library looking for those books!
In the fall, we visit each first grade classroom to encourage kids to get their very own library cards. We call this outreach "First Grade Library Stars" and give each child a letter to take home to caregivers informing them that if they return that letter to the library and get their child a library card (or show an existing card), they will earn a prize (a library logo lanyard for their shiny new card!). Plus, a free book is awarded to the teacher who has the most students visit the library.
Classroom Read Alouds
Here are some tried and true read alouds guaranteed to capture the attention of any classroom.
I haven't met a class that doesn't love this book. Penelope Rex finds it's hard to make friends at her new school when they're so darn delicious! For grades K-3.
This book came a very long way and survived many hardships to get into your hands and those of your students. Just read it. If you don't, you may face a tiger and his posse. For grades 1-5, but I'd even try it with middle schoolers. It's that good.
A crocodile is running rampant through this book eating letters, words, and whole sentences! We'll try to rock him and shake him out of this book, but nothing works until the crocodile discovers he can eat a hole through the pages. I spring a crocodile puppet on them at the end who is hungry for little fingers. So much fun! For grades K-1.
Rhyming fun in this kick-butt fractured fairy tale. For grades K-2.
Is there someone mightier than a lion, elephant, or bear? For grades K-1.
Beware the Undersnatch and Grabular! Some illustrations are small, but the repetition and fun will win over a grades K-3 crowd.
Will the children overcome their fear to stop the advancing alligator? For Grades K-2.
Otto is happiest when his book is read, but when it’s left behind he ventures out to find a new home. For grades K-2.
Papa is trying to read Little Red a bedtime story, but she can’t help interrupting and ending the stories her way. For grades K-2.
Room 2-D has a new class pet, but she's not nearly as cuddly as she looks. For grades K-2.
There’s a zombie at the desk next to yours, but no worries, he’d rather eat books than brains. For grades 2-3.
Frog is tired of being a frog, but after meeting a wolf he discovers being a frog isn’t so bad. For grades K-2.
Where else do people in your community congregate or where could they? Bring the library to them by popping up in unexpected places. Great places include sporting events, shopping centers, parks, and nature areas. Bring along a table, materials for checkout, crafts, coloring sheets, movement activities, and promotional materials. Contact the people in charge of the location for permission, pick a block of time, and show up! We never know how many people we'll see or when they'll stop by, so I tend to plan a variety of passive activities that can easily be done on the fly for however many people happen to be there.
Movement activities you can use at any location include:
The Giant Dice Game - Nothing seems to catch a child's attention like seeing a giant die tossed around. You can buy large dice at 5 Below or make your own giant die by wrapping a box in paper, drawing or adding paper dots, then "laminating" the sides with clear acrylic tape. Create a list of things that the kids must do if they land on a certain number.
For example, if you roll a number:
Sing a song or nursery rhyme
Tell us the title of your favorite book
Listen to a short story or silly poem
Dance like a robot
Do 5 Jumping Jacks
Sing "The More We Get Together" using Sign Language (which means you have to teach it to them!)
Beach Ball Toss - Very similar to the Giant Dice Game. Ask the kids to do an exercise or activity based on whichever color lands up or use a sharpie to write actions in each colored panel, such as 5 Jumping Jacks, Touch Your Toes, Clap Your Age, Roar Like a Lion, etc.
Are sports popular in your area? If so, check with your local recreation department or sporting associations to find out when games are taking place and if you can operate a space onsite. Whether it's youth soccer, little league, or football, there are bound to be little ones mulling around while their older or younger siblings play. Make life a bit easier for the parents by setting up a library booth (within eyesight of the fields, but far enough to not be a distraction) for kids to enjoy between or during games.
In addition to the movement activities listed above, offer coloring sheets and a fun craft, such as:
Pennants - Set out markers/crayons and stickers to decorate cardstock triangles. Duct tape a chopstick, kebob or paint stick on the back and you're ready to show team spirit. It's a dream come true when you see kids waving them on the sidelines while cheering on their family and friends.
Parks or Nature Areas
Activity ideas include:
Nature Scavenger Hunts - Pass them out at parks or trail heads and offer incentives, such as a free book, library logoed item, stickers, etc., if they return the completed sheet to the library. You could even leave a few tacked to trail head sign posts...if so, be sure the sheets include your library logo and contact information.
Butterfly Finger Puppet Craft - Cardstock butterflies with two horizontal slits cut through the middle for your finger. Offer markers, stickers, and/or nature items, such as flower petals and leaves, to decorate your butterflies. .
Sports Pennant Craft
Cardstock, markers, stickers, and straws or kebob sticks. Image from Crayola.com
Butterfly Finger Puppet
Cardstock, scissors, craft glue, flower petals, and leaves. Image from While Wearing Heels.