Classroom Strategies, Research and Reflections

On Your Side to Beat the Summer Slide

Ways to Partner with Your Local Public Library

What if I told you that in your community, you have a dedicated team of professionals ready to help your students succeed? What if I told you that they spend months preparing exciting programs that can help keep your students inspired and engaged over the summer? Would you be interested?

You absolutely do at your local public library!

When it comes to natural partnerships, public libraries and public schools go together like pencils and erasers, but unfortunately, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what that partnership would look like in practice. The good news is that by taking small steps today, you can build a relationship that will yield results well into the future.

While I serve as the adult services librarian at the Jackson-Madison County Library in Jackson, TN, I’ve worked hand-in-hand with our children’s and teen librarians to plan our summer library programs. Our goal is to engage all ages and to make the program particularly valuable to the entire family.

I had the opportunity recently to attend a meeting that our local school system hosted to help give parents tools and resources that they could use to help their children over the summer. Principals and administrators alike stressed the importance of combining reading with other active learning in an engaging way. It was quite possibly the greatest non-introduction “introduction” I’ve ever had, as I took the podium to tell the parents about how our eight-week summer library program could help them do just that.

In the afterglow of this moment as I talked with program organizers, I was reminded that libraries also have an equally large challenge: to get the word out to the community (particularly to parents, students, and teachers) that the library offers an exciting summer program.

But guess what? By working together, we can both win!

In over 30 states and territories, libraries have been sharing ideas, expertise, and costs to produce a summer reading program for children for decades. The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) is a consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children, teens, and adults for their public libraries.

This summer’s theme, “A Universe of Stories,” will capture the excitement of outer space, just in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. These programs are the perfect complement to the hard work you put in as educators throughout the year, but to be effective, we need your help!

The Collaborative Summer Library Program’s 2019 theme is “A Universe of Stories.” For more information on CSLP, visit their website at
The Jackson-Madison County Library’s summer program reading and activity tracker for elementary students encourages them to make daily reading a priority.

How can you help? Summer library programs are not just for kids, but they offer programs geared for teens and even adults. At our library, we try to plan programs that the whole family can enjoy together, and we particularly encourage parents to participate in our suggested reading challenges as a way to model good behavior to their children. Help us get your students excited and encourage them to get involved. We can print up flyers and come talk to your classes, but having you as a cheerleader and promoting our program through your other communication channels would be even better! Some school systems go beyond just encouraging their students and offer their own incentives for students who receive a completion certificate from their library’s summer program.

The library also includes a list of suggested educational activities and books that students can read over the summer. This resource page would be a perfect place to receive input from the local school system.

Additionally, libraries could benefit by having access to your summer reading lists, as well as having lists of books and resources that specifically align with your system’s curriculum standards. We want to have these materials in our collection! Ask your public library to set up a station with copies of your summer parent resources and reading lists. We are taking some of these materials from our system, including flashcards and workbooks, and creating grade-specific kits for use in the library. If a parent comes in, they can sit down with their child and go through the kit, and we will even make them copies of workbook pages.

We often have kids who are old enough to be in the library without a parent, and we are planning to encourage them to work on some of these exercises. If your system has parent outreach coordinators like ours does, ask the library if they can set up a table during their summer program kickoff or on a day they are having a big program. There are just a few simple ideas, but the possibilities are endless! The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, has some great partnership ideas that I encourage you to review:

Ultimately, by working together and building relationships with each other, public libraries and public schools can have a huge impact on student achievement over the summer months and beyond. Reach out to your public library today; I can guarantee you that they will welcome your involvement with open hearts and open arms.

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About the Author: Jenci Spradlin is the adult services librarian at the Jackson-Madison County Library in Jackson, Tenn. Her responsibilities cover programming, as well as marketing, public relations, grant writing and community partnerships. Prior to joining the library, she worked as a community relations liaison for the University of Memphis. She has also held positions in economic and community development and public relations for the City of Opelika, Ala., and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce respectively. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Lipscomb University and is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. She regularly volunteers with several local organizations in the Jackson community, including serving as the president of the Parent Support Group at her son’s high school.