San Jose Public Library

A Game-Based Challenge at San Jose Public Library

The San José Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge is an eight-week literacy initiative offered each year from June 1 – July 31. The Summer Reading Challenge features two “games” that encourage engagement in summer reading and learning activities:

  • A “reading tracker” game that encourages participants to read for 20 minutes per day.
  • A BINGO-style activity grid with experiential learning activities in four age categories: Pre-Reader (birth–5), Reader (5 – 12), Teen (12 – 18), and Adult. Each grid square is filled with an activity that falls within four major categories:
    • READ—(or listen to) books or other reading materials
    • LEARN—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) activities
    • EXPLORE—library and community resources
    • ENERGIZE—play outside, eat healthy foods, and exercise

In addition to the two-part Challenge, the Library offers programs planned around the annual theme. In 2015, the Library will be focusing on the Arts component of STEAM. A popular annual program that will be highlighted is the Library’s Graphic Novel Making contest.

eBay Partnership

In addition to providing a paper format for participants, San José Public Library (SJPL) partnered with eBay and the Silicon Valley Talent Partnership to provide new summer reading technology tools, which debuted in 2014. This year, eBay developers again are generously donating their time and talents to making improvements to the Summer Reading Challenge website and accompanying app for Android and iOS devices. They are also working on ways for participants to share their Summer Reading Challenge experiences on social media!

The website also includes a backend database, which staff and volunteers use to keep track of all participants’ progress and award prizes. 

Focus on the Summer Slide and Family Literacy

The two primary goals of SJPL’s Summer Reading Challenge are preventing the summer slide and supporting family literacy.

Summer Slide

  • Through the Summer Reading Challenge, SJPL widely promotes the idea that it is important for school-aged children to read for at least 20 minutes per day in order to retain their skills during the summer break. While various studies cite slightly different recommendations—typically 15-20 minutes per day or six books per summer—SJPL focuses on one clear goal to strengthen its message.
  • SJPL has been experimenting with new ways to collaborate with staff from the 16 distinct school districts in San José. In 2014, the Library partnered with a Title 1 elementary school to identify solutions for making the Summer Reading Challenge as school-friendly as possible. In 2015, the Library will pilot a registration-lite version of the program that allows logs to be widely distributed at schools without giving teachers the added burden of supplying registration information for their students. Moreover, in late 2014, a new School Support and Summer Reading Coordinator position was created at SJPL to better connect the Library’s school outreach and summer learning initiatives.

Family Literacy

  • Using the Library’s Summer Reading Challenge technology website and app, families may sign up and keep track of everyone’s progress with one family account. In 2014, 60% of the SJPL’s 3,470 adult participants were parents with accounts connected to at least one child or teen user.
  • Families reading aloud together can count those minutes on everyone’s reading tracker.
  • Many activities listed on the BINGO-style grids are the same or similar across all age groups, encouraging families to engage in enriching and educational activities together.
  • SJPL’s model of family literacy draws on parents’ strengths, regardless of their level of formal education, and does not assume that parents are equipped to serve as their children’s first “teacher”. Through the BINGO-style grid, the Summer Reading Challenge values the many ways in which parents support literacy, such as talking, storytelling, and singing together and engaging their children in daily routines.

Shannon Vakili, School Support and Summer Reading Coordinator
Madeline Walton-Hadlock, Early Education Manager / Senior Librarian