Volume 29, Number 1, Spring 2007

Maine Reaches Out with Summer Reading

by: Melora Ranney Norman, Maine State Library

Each spring, staff members of Maine State Library Outreach Services begin the work of assembling summer reading packages for children in the Books By Mail and Talking Books Plus programs.

An introduction, registration form, and description of the fun activities accompany an annotated print supplement of recently purchased books and other library materials. "The print supplement is used heavily by the children who participate; they order many of their summer reading selections from the lists," says Books By Mail librarian Jim Roy.

Other members of the outreach staff step in to help with the effort, which includes sending out packages of age-appropriate activities pages, coloring and essay contest entries, bookmarks, and other incentives to participate. Staff also work long and hard hours finding substitutions when oft-requested books are out of stock. Substitutions are important because, during a typical seven-week summer reading program, often only one or two book shipments can be sent before it is time for children to start returning their completed reading logs to the library.

When Maine State Library Outreach joined the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) in 2002, it was able to tap into a great resource for summer reading support. A majority of Maine public libraries now participate in CSLP, using consortium-supplied manuals, graphics, and public service announcements to encourage summer reading. "It makes Maine children, even those in the virtual outreach programs, feel as though they are part of a larger summer reading community," says coordinator Melora Ranney Norman. "The one thing we're still working on is creating a more robust offering for blind and visually impaired children, complete with tactile graphics and recorded activities." Currently, Talking Books Plus children receive materials in large print and cassette format.

The summer reading program gets glowing reviews from library patrons; one mother commented on how her sons were engaging in a good-humored reading competition to see who could read more. Art and essay contest entries have been displayed in the lobby of the Maine State Library, where passersby could see how their library's special programming inspired children all across the state.