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Last Modified: May 21, 2023
Get Ready for Summer Reading at Alberta Libraries Feature Image: An illustration of children reading in a park. "Beyond the Stacks with Jessie Bach" is written in white text on a light purple background at the bottom of the illustration.
Get Ready for Summer Reading at Alberta Libraries

by Jessie Bach

It’s officially—finally—springtime in Alberta! After a long, hard winter, the grass is turning green, the farmers are sowing their crops, bunnies are everywhere, and the sun is staying up well past dinner time. Summer is right around the corner. In fact, it’s been so warm in my neck of the woods that it feels like we’ve skipped spring altogether and jumped right into summer.

Summer is an exciting time in the library world. Winter and spring are when librarians hold their Annual General Meetings, are audited, submit budgets, create annual reports … you know, the things that get your heart racing. Not. Summer though … summer is when things get fun. A big source of all the fun is summer reading clubs.

Summer reading clubs are programs offered by public libraries to encourage children and teens to read during the summer months. These programs were originally designed to help prevent the “summer slide”—a phenomenon where kids may lose significant knowledge in reading and math over the summer break, setting them back for when they return to school in the fall. Every library puts their own spin on summer reading, but they all have a few core components. Participants are generally encouraged to track the number of books or pages they read over the summer. Many libraries also offer a variety of fun activities and events to engage participants and help them develop a love of reading. These activities may include author visits, book clubs, creative writing workshops, “crafternoons,” storytimes, and more. The programs usually offer prizes, awards, and draws throughout the summer.

TD Summer Reading Club LogoMost libraries in Alberta participate in the TD Summer Reading Club, or TDSRC. The TDSRC is an annual program co-created by Toronto Public Library, Library and Archives Canada, and TD Bank Group and is “Canada’s biggest, bilingual summer reading program for kids of all ages, interests, and abilities.” Every year, the TDSRC releases a loose theme for that summer’s program, accompanied by custom artwork, promotional items, reading recommendations and suggestions for games, activities, and crafts for library staff to use. Libraries are encouraged to take the theme and resources and make the program their own.

The TDSRC theme for 2023 is Check this Out. The theme encourages participants to share what makes them curious and creative by exploring their neighbourhoods, libraries, and the world around them. They will be invited to share their collections and creations and to have fun collaborating and creating new things with others.

For those who will be travelling for the summer or can’t easily access a library summer reading club, the TDSRC also offers an online version of the program so that kids can participate directly, no matter where they are. Participating this way is simple: just sign up online and download the reading log and other activity sheets and badges. There are accessible versions of the program available online too so that children with different abilities or those using assistive technologies can also participate. Program materials are available in Braille, audiobook, OpenDyslexic font, and large print.

Details about this year’s summer reading clubs should soon appear on library websites and in local media. If the programs held last summer are any indication, Alberta libraries will go all out to provide a fun and educational experience for their community’s kids. In 2022, the TDSRC theme was “Once Upon a Time,” and libraries planned programs featuring fairy tales, storytelling, oral histories, mythology and legends, and more. According to the Stettler Public Library’s Facebook page, summer 2022 was packed with fun programs and events like a Nerf gun battle, a weekly cooking club, the Amazing Race Library Edition, paint nights, and even a magic show. In Cochrane, kids had a chance to pair up with local seniors to share a story by reading together.

Summer Reading Club isn’t just for kids—there are plenty of opportunities for grown-ups to get in on the action too. Typically, adult summer reading clubs feature a reading challenge or book club and allow participants to enter draws for awesome prizes like gift cards to local businesses. For example, in 2022 Lethbridge Public Library’s Adult Summer Reading Club provided a reading theme every two weeks from mid-June through mid-September. Participants read a book that fit the theme and submitted an online review to receive entries for bi-weekly gift card draws and a grand prize draw at the end of the program. At Edmonton Public Library, the adult Summer Reads program promises to let “adults revisit the nostalgia of the summer reading clubs of their childhoods.” Adult summer reading programs are a great way to meet your reading goals, connect with other readers in your community, and discover new local businesses through prizes and events.

The summer reading season also brings some unique and fun employment opportunities for students and young people interested in gaining experience in public library service. Alberta libraries and library systems hire seasonal summer staff to develop and deliver summer reading programs in their communities. My organization, Marigold Library System, typically hires one or two summer students annually to assist our member libraries by creating and delivering programs for kids throughout the region. A quick Google search shows Summer Reading Club Coordinator positions currently posted at Banff Public Library, High Prairie Municipal Library, High River Library, Penhold & District Library, Taber Public Library, and many more.

I have wonderful memories of participating in my library’s summer reading club as a child—I loved the books, the events, and especially the prizes! The library manager would decorate the space with that summer’s program theme, create a fun reading challenge, and sign off on my reading log before doling out the much-anticipated treats and trinkets. The program kept me reading and visiting the library all summer (although, as a future librarian, I may have done that anyway). It’s exciting to know that in my career as a librarian, I am now part of an organization that supports libraries as they continue to offer these programs summer after summer.

Summer reading clubs are a great way for children, teens, and adults alike to continue learning and to stay engaged with books and reading during summer. They also provide a fun and interactive way for families to spend time together and encourage a lifelong love of reading. Details about Alberta library’s 2023 summer reading programs will roll out soon. If you or your family are interested in participating, keep an eye on your library’s website and social media feeds for more information. You can find a list of all Alberta libraries here.

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Beyond the Stacks is a column about libraries in Alberta and the useful and necessary services they provide.

Photo of Jessie Bach, author of this article

Jessie Bach grew up on a family farm in Southern Alberta and is a lifelong library user and book lover. She has a degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. Jessie has worked in archives, academic libraries, corporate records management, and now public libraries. Her current role is Communications & Engagement Manager at Marigold Library System. She currently lives in Calgary with her partner and, in true librarian fashion, three cats. Jessie likes to read (of course), knit, consume way too many true crime podcasts, and lift weights in the gym.

Feature image credit: TDSRC.