My co-founder and husband, Felix, and I built our company, Zoobean, out of a commitment to highlighting diversity in children’s literature, and a love of reading. We believe that a culture that values reading is critical and hope that our work facilitating reading programs at libraries and schools helps to do this in some small part.
We partner with over 600 libraries and schools around the world to help them deliver their reading programs through our service, Beanstack. Most popular among those programs is summer reading and/or summer learning. If you haven’t visited your library in the summer, you are missing out! They offer everything from free meals to science camps to maker courses to theatrical performances, and more for all ages. Truly, the library in the summer (and really anytime) is a magical place.
As is now our tradition, each year we look closely at the data from our client libraries to pull and share trends from the summer. Our Summer Reading Report and Recommendations is a major investment of time and resources for our team, and we want all libraries to have access to the learnings we gather.
There is a ton of information in the report. Below are three of the most interesting findings that we discovered among libraries using Beanstack to facilitate their summer reading and learning programs. To read more and see the full report, go here.
Finding: Over time, boys and men appear to participate less in summer reading programs.
Kid boys and girls enroll and participate at equal rates. However, by the teen years, girls are dramatically outpacing boys — they’re much more likely to enroll, and after enrollment, they are more likely to stay in the program. Even compared to those teen boys who do Participate, teen girls read more and interact more with Beanstack online. These trends accelerate in adulthood, where women constitute an overwhelming 80% of adult Summer Readers.
Suggested Action: Whether that means more actively recruiting teen boys, or adjusting adult Reading Lists to appeal to a predominantly female audience, knowledge of likely participants should inform program design.
Finding: Self-registration encourages overall participation.
Overall, 75% of enrollees do their own signup, and 25% are signed up by library staff. Having patrons enroll themselves in Summer Reading correlates to strikingly higher Participation rates. This holds true across all age groups, and the difference is dramatic. Teens and adults who enroll themselves are twice as likely to read as those who are enrolled by staff.
Suggested Actions: Encourage self-registration, re-orienting staff and participant mindsets.
The simple act of entering their own information, rather than having staff register on their behalf, seems to have a profound effect on readers’ participation. For those leading summer reading and learning programs, this means (re)focusing training, especially on helping staff facilitate participant sign-up. Some of our top performing libraries also offered excellent materials to their patrons (like York County Libraries, featured in a recent spotlight webinar) to provide a hand-holding approach to participant sign-up, even if staff was not available to help immediately.
Finding: Making achievable goals within the program drives better participation throughout the summer.
Our top-performing libraries — what we call differentiators- offered an average of 20 “virtual badges” for each program, 50% higher than the nationwide average of 14. Beanstack programs are based on badging milestones; libraries determine the milestone, and communicate it with a badge. Some libraries are creating badges only at points where they traditionally offer a prize — if there is no prize, there is no milestone. However, we find a strong positive correlation between the number of badges available in a program and readers’ level of Active Participation and Involvement — independent of physical prizes. The effect is significant and holds true for all age groups. The implication is that badges are prizes in themselves — they appear to motivate readers to keep on logging.
Suggested Action: When designing your program, offer more badges, or smaller milestone increments, even if they aren’t paired with prizes. It appears that if a reader sees that his/her next milestone is not too far away, then the reader is more likely to continue to read and complete activities to get to the next level.