A Special Event to Promote Attendance During the Summer Reading Program: The Annual Family Fair and Petting Zoo

The annual children’s Summer Reading Program (SRP) is one of the most popular programs that libraries offer their patrons. Each year, when school lets out and summer begins, libraries all over the United States present a variety of reading programs. The two main purposes are to keep children reading during the time they are out of school and to connect them with their local public library. The American Library Association (ALA) prepares a wealth of materials to support this effort. They choose an annual theme, make suggestions of how to implement it, offer workshops, and design promotional materials. These are available to any library nationwide that chooses to participate. The Mercer County Library System always participates.

The West Windsor Branch begins planning in January for our SRP that lasts six weeks during the summer. There are many elements to this preparation. We plan programs and activities for the entire six weeks. As well as offering our regular weekly programs, we plan special programs and events based on the year’s theme, hire performers, and advertise the program to our community. We plan for a teen volunteer program, which involves about 50 teens who assist us wherever they are needed. Managing their schedules, training them for specific tasks, and supervising their work is an important element of the program. The teens gain valuable volunteer experience, and we gain the work force we need to implement the SRP!

Ducks in the waterAfter all these efforts, the final piece of the puzzle is to find ways to attract participants. One large event that we offer each year, the Annual Petting Zoo & Family Fair, has been very successful in helping us to do that. We have been offering this program during the first week of the SRP for seven years. What-Knott Farm in Perkiomenville, PA, provides the petting zoo. The program has grown from just a petting zoo and few activities for the children to a large event that is highly anticipated each year by both children and parents. About 150 people came to our first fair—this year more than 800 people attended!
Grumpy Turkey
We have about 20 teen volunteers, and they are invaluable. They sit at a table outside and register children for the SRP. They also help with the set up and take down of the fair. We post them at each activity to show the children what to do. This year we had myriad games and activities including: bubble trouble; toss your beans; lucky ducks; javelin throw (with foam noodles); giant tic-tac-toe; ring toss; sidewalk art; sprinkles of fun (sprinkler); sliders; and the aim game. Here red solo cups were suspended on a string tied to two poles about six feet apart. Children used giant water squirters to move the cups from one pole to the other. Finally, we offered a simple craft.
Tic-Tac-Toe
We have started allowing community groups to participate. Our only requirements are that they do not put any pressure on patrons to register for their program and that they bring an activity for the children to do. This year the Windsor Athletic Club (WAC) participated and brought giant bouncy balls. Eye Level came and had mind-boggling wooden puzzles for the children to put together. Bounce U attended and provided face painting. Kids' MusicRound brings musical instruments when their schedule permits.
Delta Noir
Hula hoops
For the first time we hired a live band, Delta Noir, and they added the magic of music. We also brought back the Twirling Arcade who brought hula hoops and twirling sticks, and taught the children how to use them. We have had to deal with a few issues. We do not have enough parking at the library. Fortunately the West Windsor Municipal Complex is near, and they have a large parking area. They have agreed to let us use their space as long as we have the program on a Saturday when it does not interfere with weekly parking for their employees. We also have to get a permit from the township to stage the affair, and to serve ice pops. As youth librarians, we are always looking for ways to draw children to the library. The summer reading program gives us an opportunity to reach many children that we may not be able to reach during the school year. At the West Windsor Branch, we have found the Annual Family Fair and Petting Zoo draws many children and their parents to the library. Once they are here, they can register for the SRP and find out about the many programs available to their children at the library.
Adults having fun
If West Windsor is not your local branch, do not worry! All branches of the library system participate in the summer reading program. Register at whichever branch you visit most frequently. If you have missed being involved this year, make sure you stop by next June for SRP 2018. All branches have special youth programming taking place throughout the SRP—check the events page on our website for an up-to-date listing of events. Many branches will be having end-of-SRP programs next week:

Ewing: Mini Carnival and End of Summer Reading; Friday, August 4 at 12:00 Noon (all ages, with a caregiver). Please register.

Hickory Corner: End of Summer Reading Party with the Juggling Hoffmans;Thursday, August 3 at 7:00 p.m. (ages 3 and up, with a caregiver). Please register.

Hickory Corner: Concert with mr. RAY; Friday, August 4 at 10:30 a.m. (ages 12 months and up, with a caregiver). Please register.

Hightstown: End of Summer Reading Program Party; Thursday, August 3 at 2:00 p.m. (all ages, with a caregiver). Please register.

Hopewell: Presley & Melody’s Interactive Musical: Build a Better World; Monday, July 31 at 10:00 a.m. (all ages, with a caregiver).

Hopewell: End of Summer Reading Party with Balloon Artist; Friday, August 4 at 10:00 a.m. (all ages, with caregiver).

Lawrence: Juggling Hoffmans Show; Wednesday, August 2 at 11:00 a.m. (ages 3-11 years, with a caregiver). Please register.

Lawrence: Star Wars Party; Saturday, August 5 at 1:00 p.m. (all ages, with a caregiver). Please register.

Robbinsville: Magician George Piegaro; Wednesday, August 2 at 7:00 p.m. (ages 6 and up, with a caregiver). Please register.

Twin Rivers: Summer Reading Field Day; Thursday, August 3 at 10:00 a.m. (ages 4 and up, with a caregiver).

West Windsor: Summer Reading Program with the Juggling Hoffmans; Wednesday, August 2 at 2:00 p.m. (all ages, with a caregiver). Tickets are required for the performance. Please pick tickets up at the branch. Only SRP participants are eligible.

West Windsor: Tween End of Summer Reading Party; Thursday, August 3 at 4:30 p.m. (ages 9-11 years, with a caregiver). Tickets are required. Please pick tickets up at the branch. Only SRP participants are eligible.

West Windsor: End of Summer Reading Program for Babies with Pat McKinley; Friday, August 4 at 10:30 a.m. (all ages, with a caregiver).

—Susan F. at West Windsor Branch

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