Friday, January 10, 2020

Read & Bead: Summer Reading on a Necklace

 Readers, we have a special treat for you today: a guest article by the incredible Melissa McCleary, Youth Services Librarian at the Pembroke Public Library in Pembroke, Massachusetts. She brought the Read & Bead program to Massachusetts, and was kind enough to write down everything you need to know if you're thinking of changing up your summer program.

If you love her ideas, please consider following her blog, Little Bit Librarian, for amazing programming and storytime ideas!


As snow falls and ice crunches under foot, many libraries and library staff begin to prepare… for Summer Reading. 

What Am I Going To Do This Year?

Each library does this program a little differently and many have varying names for it: Summer Reading/Library Program/Challenge/Club, etc.  Whatever its title, most public libraries use the summer months as a way to combat the Summer Slide of losing academic skills as well as a chance to increase social opportunities and encourage a love of literacy (yay!).  

Libraries have a plethora of ideas for presenting Summer Reading and incentives that include (but are certainly not limited to) drawings, scratch tickets, BINGO cards, and more with prizes ranging from tiny trinkets to big bucks.  After seeing (and trying) a few things, I began to think of what method might best suit our community, budget, and goals.  And that’s where Read & Bead comes in!

In the summer of 2015 we initiated the Read & Bead Club, a primarily prizeless version of summer reading incentives.  As years have passed, the program has not only gained popularity in our library, but has spread and been successful in libraries all across the continent (see below)!  With some preparation, staff training, and a few purchases you can implement Read & Bead at your own library.  

These little pieces come together to make a BIG difference in Summer Reading!

Read & Bead in a Nutshell

Kids read and record their minutes (or have a grown-up help them track time) then they turn those minutes into beads of varying colors, shapes, and designs to decorate and personalize their very own necklace.  This Club is open to ages 3 through (entering) grade 6; babies, toddlers, teens, and adults have different Clubs or programs at our library that won’t be discussed here.

Upon signing up at the Youth Circ Desk or visiting the library after registering online, participants get three things and are ready to start:
  • 1 Brag Tag 
  • 1 necklace
  • 1 reading record sheet 

The Brag Tag is basically a plastic “dog tag” that your library can personalize to include your name and logo and/or some stock images and phrases.  Our most popular Brag Tag has been “Reading is Cool!” featuring a penguin bundled up and reading a book; below this aquatic, flightless bird is our library’s name.  We always have at least four choices for kids; one will match that summer’s “theme” while the others are just cool or cute.
"Take Me to Your Reader" matched the 2018 CSLP theme of "A Universe of Stories."  We have at least 4 designs to select from each year.

The necklaces are ball chains that measure 30” with a clasp that can be undone (with some practice); staff may need to help kids and even their grown-ups in undoing and redoing the clasp at first, but patrons get the hang of it.  On the topic of these necklaces, one of the biggest questions I get about this program is, “What about the boys?”  Don’t worry, ALL the kids love the necklaces.  When we originally launched, we had a necklace option and a keychain option that was about five inches in length (just in case), but necklaces were overwhelmingly popular. Many libraries that have implemented the program offer only the necklace option and we even stopped distributing them this year with no complaints from kids or caregivers.

The reading record can be anything!  Our library uses the standard CSLP records; these have a blank line on the front for the child’s name and small bubbles on the back to fill in with minutes.  We also subscribe to Beanstack so families may choose to log online instead of using paper at all.  Either way, all minutes are recorded in Beanstack eventually by a library patron or staff member.  We just ask families to track minutes in whatever way best suits them.

I’m Ready for Beads!

We organize our beads, tags, and chains in one divided case.
Each time kids visit the library, they can collect beads for the amount of time they’ve read.

There are 5 "levels" of beads kids can earn: 
  • 15 minutes = Solid color pony beads 
  • 30 minutes = Sparkly/Glitter beads 
  • 1 hour = Shiny/Metallic beads 
  • 2 hours = Glow-in-the-Dark/UV beads 
  • 4 hours = Shaped beads (sports balls, animals, skulls, etc.) 
Participants can "level up" as the summer progresses. So if they read for 30 minutes one day and pick up a glitter bead, then read for 30 minutes the next day, they could exchange all of those minutes for one shiny bead (turning in their original glitter bead). This process can also work in reverse or in any other combination!

Other Successful Read & Bead Libraries:

You don’t have to just take my word for it.  Just because something is popular in one community doesn’t mean it will work everywhere, right?  Put your mind at ease: libraries all over have started using the program.

This year I asked libraries who have successfully implemented Read & Bead to sound-off on Facebook via the group Storytime Underground.  Many of those are listed here along with other libraries who have reached out to me or have been brought to my attention throughout the years.  Some even created their own version years before our Read & Bead program!

  • Connecticut
    • Berlin-Peck Memorial Library
    • Guilford Smith Memorial Library
    • Southington Public Library
  • Florida
    • Monroe County Public Library
  • Illinois
    • Oak Park Public Library
    • Palos Park Library
  • Indiana
    • La Porte County Public Library
  • Iowa
    • Britt Public Library
    • Le Mars Public Library
  • Louisiana
    • Webster Parish Library
  • Maine
    • Libby Memorial Library
  • Massachusetts
    • Ames Free Library
    • Amesbury Public Library
    • Beaman Memorial Public Library
    • Bedford Free Public Library
    • Flint Memorial Library
    • Morrill Memorial Library
    • Newbery Town Library
    • Norfolk Public Library
    • Northborough Free Library
    • Parker Memorial Library:
    • Pembroke Public Library (That’s us!)
    • Plainville Public Library
    • Seekonk Public Library
    • Taunton Public Library
    • Tewksbury Public Library
    • Ventress Memorial Library
    • Weymouth Public Libraries
    • Woburn Public Library
  • Michigan
    • Ionia Community Library
  • Missouri
    • Adair County Public Library
    • Scenic Regional Library
  • Pennsylvania
    • Emmaus Public Library
    • Honey Brook Community Library
    • Lower Macungie Library
    • Pottstown Regional Public Library
  • South Carolina
    • Georgetown County Public Library
  • Texas
    • Brownwood Public Library
    • Pottsboro Library
  • Wisconsin
    • Eager Free Public Library
  • Canada
    • Aurora Public LIbrary
    • Centennial Branch of the Ottawa Public Library
    • Terrace Public Library

Tell Me More!

If you’re interested in details, please visit my Read & Bead blog articles.  The articles and links have information about where you can buy supplies, how you can work to convince admins to get on board with the program, and even a webinar.  I update the FAQ portion of my blog whenever someone has a unique question so feel free to ask via the comments there!

Please note: Parts of this article used information or portions from my original articles about Read & Bead.

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