A Pioneer Program

In 1958, Texas State Librarian Witt B. Harwell initiated the Texas Summer Reading Club as a pioneer program conducted under the Library Services Act. A few thousand Texas children participated in bookmobiles in Central and East Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, and at small community libraries in Llano, Burnet, Marble Falls, and Navasota. The United States had entered the space race and the first theme was Space Flight. According to the September-October, 1958 issue of Texas Libraries, children “swarmed” the bookmobile.

“…As the young people boarded the bookmobiles to join the Reading Club, they found the interior decorated with pictures of space men, planets, satellites, and stars, all backed up solidly by their own planet, Earth. When they joined they were dubbed Space Cadets, and each was given a ‘Flight Log’ to keep…Each Space Cadet who read enough books to return to the Earth Station was awarded a State Library Reading Certificate and dubbed “Astronaut.”

Fifty Years of Texas Reading Club Themes

It’s been a long and exciting journey from Space Flight to the Texas Reading Club Jubilee: 1958-2008! And oh, the places children have been with summer reading! The annual themes mirror a half-century of cultural and historical events.

In the 1960’s, Swiss Family Robinson, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music ignited imaginations at theaters. Children sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and played with Frisbees, Hot Wheels, and skateboards. In July 1968, children watched wondrously as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. In that decade, Reading Club themes including Open Your Future-Read, Vacation Readers Go Everywhere, and Read and Watch Your World Grow invited children to expand their horizons and prepare for the exciting future that lay before them. In the turbulence of the 1960’s, children witnessed the Civil Rights movement. In 1963, the year Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Texas Reading Club posters proclaimed Read! The Fifth Freedom…Enjoy It!

In 1970’s, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Muppet Movie, and Star Wars were box office hits. Children sang “The Rainbow Connection”, watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company on PBS, and played with Star Wars action figures and Atari video games. At the library, they explored the world and their imaginations. The 1970 Texas Reading Club poster announced There is No Frigate Like a Book to Take Us Lands Away. Annual themes invited children to Be a Readasaurus, Climb a Little This Summer, and Take a Giant Step. Young people traveled Cross-Country With a Hero, took a Jungle Journey, and went In Search of Texas Treasures. In 1976, they celebrated the Texas Bicentennial by Movin’ On…Then and Now.

The 1980’s were filled with fun, action, and adventure. At theaters, the decade began with Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and ended with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid. Children played with Nintendo, Transformers, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Walkmans, and watched Nickelodeon and The Muppet Show. At the library, they competed in Sports Splash and glided through Monster Madness, Magical Mysteries, Awesome Adventures, Animal Antics, and Creature Features. Children explored their roots with Celebrate Texas and a Reading Rodeo, journeyed through distant galaxies in Space Capers, and broke new ground with Trailblazer, Stargazer.

As the twentieth century came to a close in the 1990’s, Beauty and the Beast, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, and Toy Story entertained children at local theaters. They played with roller blades, Pokemon, Microsoft X-Box, Sony PlayStation, and they discovered Harry Potter. Libraries added computers and the Internet. During the summer, children cracked The Secret Code is…R.E.A.D! and frolicked through a fun-filled summer at Camp Wanna Read. On the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America in 1992, they voyaged to the library to Discover the New World of Reading. Children followed the yellow brick road to reading in Lions and Tigers and Books…Oh My!, explored geography and culture in Familiar Faces, Far Away Places, and learned that kids can help save the earth in Once Upon a Planet. They played their favorite sports in Ready…Set…Read!, let their imaginations soar with the Incredible Dream Machine, explored wild kingdoms in Furry Tales! Funny Tales! and expressed their creativity in Open a Book ~ On With the Show!

At theaters, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Shrek, Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Pirates of the Caribbean welcomed children into this brave new century in which they play Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, and Wii sports. The Texas Reading Club set a course for the new millennium with Invent the Future! Read! in 2000. Then children expanded their horizons To the Library and Beyond!, learned about Texas culture and history in Read Across Texas!, and solved mysteries in Mission Possible: Spy a Book! They explored rainbows and prisms in Color Your World...Read!, returned to nature in Go Wild...Read!, won medals for Reading: The Sport of Champions! and breezed through Sail Away with Books! And now they will celebrate the golden anniversary with Texas Reading Club Jubilee: 1958-2008! What a long, wonderful journey this past half-century has been!

Texas Reading Club Jubilee: 1958-2008! celebrates literature, songs and music, games and toys, everything children have enjoyed through the decades. Children’s book illustrator, Janet Stevens, created the amazingly beautiful artwork. Singer/songwriter, Joe McDermott, composed the joyful theme song, “Celebrate.” The recording of the song features Joe McDermott with the help of Sara Hickman, Lucas Miller, Sue Young, Laura Freeman, and Beth Blackerby on violin. Texas youth librarians wrote the chapters for the 2008 manual. All of these wonderful contributions make 2008 one of the most exciting Texas Reading Clubs in its 50-year history.

In total, more than 13 million Texas children have participated in the Texas Reading Club in the past 50 years. Participation has grown rapidly throughout the years. In 1959, approximately 5,000 children participated at libraries in 25 counties. By 1969, participation grew to approximately 59,000 children, and a total of about 357,000 children participated in the 1960’s. This tripled to approximately 1,056,000 in the 1970’s and tripled again to about 3,372,000 in the 1980’s, and grew to 4,309,000 in the 1990’s. Now approximately 500,000 children participate annually at more than 800 public and school libraries.

Fifty Years of Artwork and Programming Manuals

The Texas Reading Club artwork has evolved through five decades, keeping pace with professional and technological changes and innovations. The small 2-color posters provided in the 1950’s and early 60’s advanced to full-sized color posters for Come to the Chimera in 1978. Clip art was provided in the early 1970’s.In 1980, a Spanish theme was added to the artwork along with the English theme. In 1990, nationally acclaimed children’s book illustrators began creating the artwork, beginning with James Marshall. Stephen Kellogg, Felicia Bond, David Wisniewski, Denise Fleming, Kevin Henkes, Alexandra Day, and so many others followed, leading up to Janet Stevens in 2008. The clip art became available online and on CD-Rom in 2002. The color artwork followed in 2004, enabling local Texas libraries to easily download it to their own web sites. Beginning in 2007, color clip art was provided electronically in addition to the black-and-white line drawings.

In 1978, Shirley Lukenbill and Anita Lesser created the first Texas Reading Club programming manual with high quality programming ideas based on the theme, Come to the Chimera. Through the years, numerous creative and talented librarians wrote outstanding manuals featuring ideas for summer programs for children of all ages. In 1982, Peggy Jamelka Rudd from the Central Texas Library System wrote the programming manual for “Space Capers.” Ms. Rudd, now Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, continues to be a strong advocate for youth services. In 2001, individual librarians began to write chapters for the manual in their areas of expertise. A bilingual chapter, puppet plays and reader’s theater scripts, and stories for oral telling were also added in 2001. In 2002, the manual was distributed electronically on the Texas State Library web site and on CD-Rom for the first time. Digital photos of crafts were added to the manual in 2007. In 2008, links are provided to videos on YouTube.

In 1993, Marketing the Texas Reading Club: A Guide for Youth Services Specialists was published to assist librarians in promoting their reading clubs. In 1995, Texas Reading Club Manuals Cumulative Index by Linda Webster with Alana Cash was published, and it was updated in 1998.

Texas singer-songwriters began writing and recording original theme songs in 2002. They are available online and on CD-Rom for downloading and use in promoting the Texas Reading Club and in library and outreach programs.

In 2008, a science and math programs chapter is included in the Texas Reading Club manual for the first time. Also in 2008, the Texas State library will host the first teen reading club, Texas Teens Read!

Texas Library Association Advisory Committees

The Texas Library Association (TLA) Children’s Round Table formed the Texas Reading Club Advisory Committee in the late 1980’s to advise the Texas State Library on improving the Texas Reading Club. The Committee began hosting programs at the annual TLA conferences to share ideas for summer children’s programs. This laid the groundwork for annual programs to introduce the contents Texas Reading Club manuals at TLA conferences. In 1991 the Committee selected James Marshall as the first nationally acclaimed children’s book illustrator to create artwork for the Texas Reading Club. The committee began sponsoring annual programs by the artist at annual TLA conferences. Today the Committee nominates themes and artists for each annual Texas Reading Club and continues to host annual programs at TLA conferences.

In 2006 TLA’s Young Adult Round Table established the Texas Teens Read! Advisory Committee to suggest themes, nominate artists, and host programs at annual TLA conferences. The committee selected the theme, Game On! TTR.08 for the 2008 Texas Teens Read! and nominated graphic artist, Rod Espinosa, whose engaging artwork is sure to bring teens to the library. Committee members developed eight innovative programs for the first Texas Teens Read! Programming manual.


I would like to express my gratitude to former Texas State Librarian, Witt B. Harwell, for implementing the Texas Reading Club, and to Peggy Jamelka Rudd, current Texas State Librarian, for her continued support of the program. As Texas Reading Club manager, I stand on the shoulders of the many others who developed and contributed to the program throughout the decades, and am eminently grateful for their contributions and dedication. My heartfelt thanks goes to the staff at the Texas State Library who coordinated and managed the program throughout the decades, and to the many Texas librarians who wrote Texas Reading Club manuals, served on the Texas Reading Club Advisory Committee, and partnered to host Texas Reading Clubs in their communities so enthusiastically throughout the past 50 years. I am especially thankful to the Texas State Library staff members who have tirelessly assisted with producing the Texas Reading Club each year.

I would like to thank Janet Stevens, Joe McDermott, the author/librarians who developed the 2008 manual, and the wonderful staff at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission who assisted with the 2008 Texas Reading Club manual and artwork, especially Suzanne Holman, Julie Hughes, Kelli Hansen, Michael Shea, and Myra Zatopek.

Christine McNew

Youth Services Consultant

Texas State Library and Archives Commission


Texas Reading Club 2008 Programming Manual / Texas Reading Club Jubilee: 1958-2008! / Texas Celebrates 50 Years of Reading

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011