PLS Summer Initiative

Update: Presentation from the summer 2017 Summer @ Your Library workshop.

In order to address summer learning loss among children and teens in San Mateo County, Peninsula Library System Libraries redesigned our summer approach and completed Year 1 of a comprehensive summer initiative.

To create an appealing campaign and expand marketing using innovative and effective methods, we developed high quality marketing materials and a unified branding for the summer learning program. To maximally appeal to children, the unified program consisted of four distinct campaigns—one for families with children 0-5, one for kindergartners-third grade, one for fourth graders-sixth graders, and one for teenagers. Materials were available for the first time in all jurisdictions in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

To support an online option that engages children and families, we created a unified website: that gathered together an awareness campaign about the importance of summer learning, program guidelines, and compiled all the public library enrichment opportunities scheduled for the summer months.

Staff conducted extensive outreach efforts and partnered with organizations that included farmer’s markets, parks and recreation departments, preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, WIC clinics, HeadStart, local festivals, youth centers, programs for incarcerated youth, Boys and Girls Clubs, churches, and shelters. All of this work helped connect caring staff and learning opportunities to all children throughout the County, particularly those who may not be unfamiliar with library services and resources.

Summer Learning Enrichment Camps

Research and findings strongly suggested pursuing two tactics to support success for every child in San Mateo County—ensure that children have access to high quality meals so their basic needs are met and offer a high enough dosage of enriching opportunities in order to correlate with reducing summer learning loss.

PLS provided weekday summer lunches and enriching experiences in 5 libraries located in the geographic areas of schools below 52{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} START 3rd grade reading proficiency.

The free Summer Learning Camps each serve 20‐30 incoming 2nd and 3rd graders identified as struggling readers. Summer Learning Camps operate 5 days per week for 8 weeks, offering a minimum of 100 hours of weekly programming, as indicated by research and best practices. Camps provide economically disadvantaged children who do not have access to summer learning programs with:

  1. Free, high quality enrichment opportunities that foster a love of reading
  2. Hands‐on activities in a variety of subjects, largely based on books
  3. A daily healthy lunch, provided by Revolution Foods
  4. Books to add to students’ home libraries
  5. Field trips as incentives
  6. Family Literacy Nights to celebrate student work and engage parents in their child’s literacy development.

The 2014 Summer Literacy Camp in conjunction with Lunch at the Library program was a great success and met all California Summer Matters standards for quality summer enrichment programs. With the program, we

  • Reached 127 children in high need communities
  • Offered 3-4 hours of enriching programming per day, Monday-Friday for 8 weeks so that enrolled students could experience a minimum 100 hours of quality summer learning hours
  • Served 10,364 healthy meals: this includes 5625 lunches and 4739 snacks in total.
  • Provided an average of 17 books per family to add to their home libraries

When surveyed about the camps:

  • 88{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of parents stated their child learned what they hoped she/he would learn by participating in the library learning camp
  • 76{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of parents believe their child(ren) improved their reading in our library learning camp
  • 75{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of students responded positively at the conclusion of our library learning camp when asked how they feel about reading
  • 100{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of library learning camp participants read 8 or more books this summer.

Parents and children consistently provided additional positive commentary about their lunch experience at the library. Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • “The food was good and she liked it a lot. My daughter and I are so happy with the staff who made us feel like we were at home.”
  • “We love the library. The children like eating at the library.”
  • “I think it was great that people could get lunch there. It was great. Thank you.

The majority of children reported positive feelings about reading. When asked how reading made them feel, here’s what some of them said:

  • “…happy to learn new things.”
  • “I like that I learn new things and I am challenged.”
  • “I feel joyful.”

The parents were asked if the program has helped their child learn what they had hoped, here’s how some of them responded:

  • “It has helped [her] reading tremendously.”
  • “Absolutely! My son has benefited tremendously.”
  • “Definitely! She spent more time reading.”

There was more interest in the summer learning camps pilot year than we were able to meet and we are eagerly looking forward to growing the program to serve additional children in research backed, effective ways to keep summers engaging and to build positive learning cultures in the communities with lowest reading scores and highest number of free or reduced school lunches.


PLS worked collaboratively to implement significant program changes and strategies for Year 1 of Summer Learning at the Library. To truly support children and their future success, additional work needs to be done to ensure children have access to nutritious food, more children have access to a dosage of enrichment opportunities that correlates with best practices, and that more children and families participate in learning and reading throughout the summer months. Currently, data for San Mateo County shows that just 61{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of children under 5 are read to daily, just 19{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of students eligible for free/reduced lunch receive meals in the summertime, and a heartbreaking 23{8d500d450027b93333be3b285dae0cf2d2a460b569ebacd77329f3a45df205ba} of students who are low income have access to a state funded afterschool program. We can do so much more to safeguard the futures of our youth and provide support and options to parents.

Carine Risley, Library Services Manager