We're doing three summer reading programs for kids this year, separating pre-readers (birth-4), youth (4-12) and teens (12-18). Those who fall in between are welcome to choose which they want to join.
I won't go into details about the program structure yet, as I want to see how it plays out for a couple weeks first, but one of the things I'm doing for both the teens and the youth of all ages is a weekly passive program that looks like this:
I bought 8 water bottles that were sold with the summer reading theme for kids and 8 for teens (the dark blue nalgene bottles). I then went to the grocery store and bought a ton of treats -- goldfish crackers, m&ms, skittles, gummy words, animal crackers, etc. In each bottle, my volunteer and I counted out candy, something different for each of the 8 weeks of our program, then closed the lid. Every week, the kids and teens each have a shot to win the bottle of candy for guessing the number inside. Ah yes, it is tricky, since the kids can't actually see what's inside, so they have to believe in the sign:
Every Monday, we'll go through the responses and the kid with the closest answer wins.
There are pre-cut sheets of paper asking for name, phone number and guess for them to use right at the desk, as well.
I already know this is one of my favorite programs this summer. Why?
It gets the kids and teens to come in every week. It's exceedingly simple, requires virtually no staff time (except for when we counted out the candy and when we'll go through answers) and yet, it's one that even today, on our kickoff date, we had a number of participants in. Everything's already in the bottles and sorted, so it's a quick Monday morning prep program, and I cannot wait to present the winners their little souvenir each week.
As I mentioned, today was our kickoff for the program. It was cold and rainy, and since our events are outside under a tent, the turnout was a little disappointing for our magician. But the magician was excellent, and the kids who were there had a total blast. The jokes were just right, too, that the adults could enjoy them. I had one mom tell me how fabulous the performer was, too, which I relayed to him afterward (when he gave my intern and I some other magic tricks).
So far, sign up looks good, and there are almost as many teens signed up as littler kids. My goal's to double the size of teen participation this year from last, and we're already at nearly half of last year's numbers on our first day.