For a hundred years, the Free Library of Philadelphia has offered some sort of summer reading and learning program for children. In the earliest days, this took the form of the Vacation Reading Club, where older elementary-aged children were required to read and review books during the summer months, in order to receive certificates. Indeed, this model of the program was considered so successful that this was how it operated for decades, although eventually children were encouraged to diversify their reading by exploring different genres as they read and attending discussion groups at their neighborhood libraries. Eventually, the program was opened up to younger children and evolved into the Summer Reading Game in the early 1990s, with a program for teenagers added at the end of that decade.
With this historical foundation as the base and informed by research into how kids grow and learn, the program is now known as Summer of Wonder and welcomes participants of all ages – from babies to adults. While reading is still paramount, Summer of Wonder recognizes that literacy takes many forms and learning loss can happen in all areas. It encourages participants to engage in a variety of interesting and appealing activities to keep minds and bodies sharp and motivated during the summer months. This year, as libraries, schools, and businesses transitioned to working and learning from home, finding ways to prevent the “Summer Slide” is more important than ever and the Free Library of Philadelphia can help.
As our library locations remain closed physically at this time, Summer of Wonder will be a virtual experience this year; although one that encourages lots of exploration and engagement with the computer. From June 1-August 31, kids, teens, and adults can sign up online to collect points and earn badges by following suggestions, and spending time reading. To make things easier, there’s even an app (for both Apple and Android products), so you can log books and activities wherever you are.
In addition to the ideas found on the Summer of Wonder site, the library will be offering regular activities via our Facebook page, as well as a weekly blog post on the Free Library website, which will highlight what’s coming up in the next week. To receive some of these ideas in your in-box, you can sign-up for our Youth Services and Programs newsletter, which will keep you in the loop about everything that’s going on. The library will also be partnering with a variety of performers and presenters, to offer virtual programs and experiences that you can participate in via the social media platforms you’re probably already using, like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Beyond that, many of the neighborhood library staff will be offering their own take on summer programming, whether it is through continued virtual story times, online book clubs, crafty Instagram posts, or something else. Recognizing the need that we all have to connect to one another and our communities and providing those opportunities, while still remaining safely distanced, has been challenging, but it has led to lots of experimentation and creative thinking that will no doubt continue throughout the summer.
And of course, the Free Library remains the place to find quality digital material – from e-books, to new magazines, to obscure films, and much more. Our lists can help you find just the right title you need, and if you’re motivated to do so, you can even make your own or add reviews right to the library’s catalog. Plus, once you’ve read something and logged it, you’ll be well on your way to earning your first Summer of Wonder badge! We all have our own stories to tell and our summer learning activities can help you and your child do so, in a way that is meaningful and individualized.