Librarians to the Rescue!

On March 13, 2020, I began making a list of public libraries that were closing due to Covid. At first, the list was a trickle, then a surge. Within a week, it was obsolete because every public library and school in the U.S. was closed indefinitely.

Fast forward to May 2021. We are in the final weeks of the Covid school year. Despite the heroic efforts of dedicated educators, the fact is that reading achievement has faltered for students all over the world.

Compounding the problem is the fact that when schools closed last March, reading progress largely stalled. When students began the 2020-21 school year, many started in a learning deficit created last spring.

There are multiple studies underway demonstrating that math and reading scores are generally down 5 to 10% in 2021 vs. 2020. This is not an insurmountable number. However, there is need for great caution with this statistic.

Researchers have found it exceedingly difficult to achieve good data because many students, up to 25%, are not taking assessments-- simply because many students are not at school, the school is not administering assessments or students are not engaged in at-home learning.

We are flying blind to some degree.  However, with the data that is being released now, we can reasonably assume that reading skills, especially for K-4 students, are lagging. We know that skills not achieved in early grades can have long term negative influence on academic achievement.

You can see one of these studies at this link.


Summer reading programs became a staple of public library programming in the late 1970s and 1980s.  Summer reading typically is an interesting add-on that gives families a quality activity that helps retain hard-earned reading skills from the previous school year.

Summer 2021 is different. Summer Reading Programs need to help close skills gaps for students.

Are you prepared to run a summer reading program that do more than it ever has before?

Do you have a plan to carry out better outreach, run quality programs and, most of all, help students maintain skills at a minimum and hopefully increase reading skills?

No pressure, but librarians are more important than ever.

Having seen how libraries all over the world run summer reading programs, I have developed a list of tactics that any library can engage to make their summer reading better than ever—without turning your entire library staff into the “Summer Reading” staff.

Here are some questions to ask that can prompt productive actions to make your summer reading programs count more than ever in 2021:

  1. Are you working with local schools to encourage participation in your library programs?

    Libraries that traditionally have strong sign-up engagement provide information to local schools. Schools know how to communicate with their families and are typically happy to pass along information about summer reading.

    We suggest generating a pdf flyer or email that is ready-to-send. Making it easy for schools to pass information along is key to engaging local schools.
  2. Are you offering multiple reading goals and groups that meet readers where they are?

    This summer, more than in the past, readers are at varying levels of proficiency. To encourage participation, it is important to offer goals and reading objectives that are compelling for participants. Many libraries offer a single reading program and goal for all readers. You can easily offer a range of goals and objectives that meet the needs of different readers.
  3. Does it take less than 5 minutes to signup and engage with your reading programs?

    Today’s parents are millennials. They engage with the world through their smartphones. If your reading programs are not accessible through a mobile app, participation will suffer. Ease of access is vital.
  4. Do you share your reading success with readers and your community?

    Everyone wants to be a member of a winning team.  Many times, the results of a summer reading program remain in the hands of librarians only. Sharing data with your community is a powerful way to spur engagement in your programs, prove your mission to stakeholders and build a community of reading.

    If you release cumulative reading data to your community, you will validate the notion that your library builds readers and enhances your community.

The questions above guide every aspect of Reader Zone. We know librarians are busy. We wanted to provide a powerful tool to build and deploy reading programs.  More importantly, we wanted to make it simple and gratifying for patrons to join and participate with reading programs.

We look forward to helping libraries all over the world the opportunity to build readers this summer.