Emily Stuckey Weber, Teen Services Coordinator, Goshen Public Library

Emily Stuckey Weber

Teen Services Librarian – Goshen Public Library

Teen Summer Reading Program is Growing

I often hear comments and suggestions directed at kids like, ‘Oh, comic books and graphic novels and audio books don’t count—those aren’t really reading.’ And I know that, in schools, most teachers also assign all the reading material. So, for a kid these days a library can sometimes feel like a place where adults are telling you what to do and what to think and what to read.

As a librarian, I think the best thing adults can do to help encourage more reading is to not spend so much time putting limits on it.

That just shuts kids down.

Our goal is to make sure the kids in our community have access to resources for reading and learning, and so when the school year ends for summer we kick things into extra gear at the Goshen Public Library to try and fill that gap. We offer summer reading programs for kids of all ages, and as the Teen Services Librarian I’m in charge of the Teen Summer Reading Experience, which is for kids who’ve finished grades six through 12.

I have a really good core of die-hard readers, we had 100 kids in the program in 2022. This is the third year we’ve used an online system called Beanstack for registering kids and for tracking reading. Kids can sign up and decide whether they want their reading tracked by hours or days. Every seventh hour or seventh day they spend reading, depending on what they signed up for, the readers will get a badge that gets them a prize or gives them a chance to win a prize. Everyone gets something for the first badge they earn.

For their first badge the kids usually get to choose their prize; it might be a food item from The Chief or someplace local, or entry passes for the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. We’ll also have a weekly drawing and a grand prize drawing at the end of the summer for passes to take the train and spend a day at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

The program has grown the past few years. I think part of the reason is because we’re using the app for registering—it’s more aligned to the way kids are doing things these days. And the fact that they have a chance to score some pretty cool prizes has also contributed to our good numbers.

Last year 75 percent of our readers earned their first badge. That’s really good, but it can be a challenge to keep kids engaged the whole way through. So we’ll have in-person activities and events, throughout, to keep things fun and keep our young readers in the mix. Cooking, for example, is something they’re always very interested in, and so we have a Ramen competition, judged on presentation, planned for one of the in-person activities this summer. We’ll also have a scavenger hunt, an anime night, arts events, and an old school recess rewind with group games like freeze tag.

I graduated from Goshen College, where I majored in biology and secondary education. I’m from northwest Ohio but my mom and most of her family went to Goshen College. After that, I worked for a bit out in Colorado at an invertebrate zoo. It was there that I got my feet wet working with kids. I loved it but it was challenging. Colorado was great, but with my family in Ohio and my husband’s in Pennsylvania we decided to move to Goshen to be closer.

I thought I’d be a biology teacher. But this was something where I could be supporting students and teachers and still have some creative freedom to be able to do unconventional things like throwing a summertime Ramen competition!

At the end of the day it’s just so meaningful to me. My job is to do whatever I can to encourage the growth and development of our young readers. Getting to plan the Teen Summer Reading Experience, and work with such great support is pretty amazing. For a librarian, when you help someone develop an appreciation for reading, or you help them find something that speaks to them and moves them, it truly is rewarding.

Written by Jake Sandock

Original publish date June 2023

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