Reading With Heart

By Deban Becker

(Used with permission from Katie Morris and Becky Sheridan.)


The idea behind this chapter is to host a program with a philanthropic goal that allows teens to look beyond themselves and share reading with others. Teens are involved in philanthropic acts through various organizations throughout the school year, so it is not a stretch to allow the library to become a venue for service projects during the summer. Teens like helping other teens, and feeling connected through reading is a great way to make this happen.

In times of economic strain, it is important to have programs that are cost-efficient as well as engaging to teens. Whether it is virtually via the Internet, or physically through a book drive, or even possibly using their reading as an incentive to raise awareness or support for a cause, this program will inspire teens to use their reading to connect with others in their communities and the world at large.

Books to Share

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
It's Your World—If You Don't Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Mikki Halpin
Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci
The Search by Eric Heuvel
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Books to Show or Booktalk

Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares
It's Complicated – The American Teenager by Robin Bowman
Paper Towns by John Green
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Audio Recording

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Games and Activities

Reading for a Reason

Due to decreased funds, many libraries have had to forego some of the traditional incentives for summer reading prizes. Inspired by this idea, invite your teens to get involved in the community by pledging their reading titles or time to an organization or cause of their choosing. Promote the teens' various causes in the library throughout the summer in your teen area through a display and on your library web site.

For three consecutive summers, Becky Sheridan, Youth Services Librarian at the Easttown Library & Information Center in Berwyn, Pennsylvania has approached the idea of summer reading incentives through a philanthropic lens. The Easttown Library & Information Center designed a summer reading program that would allow patrons to read to benefit an organization or cause in their community (for example, in 2007 they read to help raise money for Main Line Animal Rescue, a local animal shelter). Library patrons were asked to read with the goal of helping this specific purpose in mind. Summer readers committed the time and titles of books read in a community effort to support a worthy cause. The program is described in detail in the article included with this chapter, "Helping Hands (and Paws): The Story of How One Library's Summer Reading Program was for the Dogs—Literally."

Gathering for Good: Teen Book Drive

Host a teen book drive and donate the books to community organizations. Encourage the teens to collect gently used books from their homes, neighbors, or friends to be donated to others. Ask teens to design collection boxes to be left at the library, local businesses, or city workplaces, such as firehouses and police stations. Spread the word about the book drive via city or county e-mail, the local newspaper, and local TV station. Encourage the teens to be truly involved in the drive by permitting them to choose the types of books to be collected (for young or older readers) and deciding where the books should be donated (for instance, a children's hospital or a homeless shelter).

Unleash Your Books: Teen Book Drop

Host a teen book drop. Inspired by the annual Operation TBD hosted by Readergirlz,, invite teens to gather new books to be "dropped" at a chosen location for deserving teens.

Traveling Books

Kick-off the summer reading program by hosting a Traveling Books event at your library. Bookcrossing encourages "recyclable reading" by inviting individuals to read a book and then share it with someone else by leaving it somewhere, such as on a park bench, in an airport, or anywhere! Books left for others have a unique identification number so that they can be tracked via the Bookcrossing web site. The ID number on the book also allows the finder of the book to learn where the book has traveled and to make comments about it on the Bookcrossing web site. This makes the experience of "bookcrossing" a global book club and scavenger hunt of sorts.

Prior to the event, set up an account with Bookcrossing,, for the library's teens. Invite the teens to make bookplates for books and take a donated book with them to set "free" in the community. Check the site throughout the summer and give the teens updates on the whereabouts of their books. Create a display or bulletin board by mounting a map. Use pushpins or stars to show the various places where the released books went. Display the map in the teen section of your library throughout the summer.

Teens will be the primary people releasing books, however when library staff travels for vacation, they could take a book. Teens will also request a book if they are going out of town. This helps spread them around the state (and world). Books to be released are also distributed at Teen Advisory Board meetings and teen programs. Several books are stored for distribution upon request. The books that are used as "traveling books" are gently used, donated books from teens, library patrons, and the library's Friends group. Information can be sent to the local newspaper so as the books are found in the community patrons will be knowledgeable about the project. The program is ongoing since books continue to be released and found.


Design Your Own Bookplates
  • Blank self-adhesive labels or stickers
  • Markers, pens, or Sharpies

Invite your teens to make their own unique labels for the books that they will unleash. Make sure to leave enough space to write in the BookCrossing tracking ID number.

Web Based Activities

BookCrossing – Bookmarks, Labels, and Stamps
BookCrossing features templates for labels, which require blank Avery labels and an inkjet printer. If money and equipment allows, this is a less "low-tech" option for identifying the books that are released. If the templates are not available, use plain labels and write something such as:

"I've registered this book at so I can track its journey through this world. Please go to to let me know you found it, then read it and/or pass it on for someone else to enjoy."

Decatur Public Library (Decatur, Texas)'s Photos - Traveling (Travelling?) Books!
Become a friend of Decatur Public Library and learn firsthand about their Traveling Books program.

Web 2.0

Share Book Recommendations with Your Friends, Join Book Clubs, Answer Trivia
Create a Goodreads group where teens can share book reviews and recommendations with one other. Goodreads boasts that it is "the largest social network for readers in the world." Goodreads members recommend books, form book clubs, record what they have read, and more. Using Goodreads, teens can share books virtually and stay connected.

Professional Resources


Teen Programs with Punch: A Month-By-Month Guide by Valerie A. Ott

Web Sites

ALA/2010 Popular Paperbacks For Young Adults

"Change Your World or Live to Regret It" booklist compiled by the 2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee that focuses on books related to teen activism.

ALA/Booklists/GET ACTIVE In Your Community – Fiction

Based on the 2006 Teen Read Week theme "Get ACTIVE in your community," this site features a list of teen fiction books.

ALA Teen Read Week Program Ideas: Get Philanthropic @ your library
The planning guide for ALA'a Teen Read Week programs features suggestions for programs related to philanthropy.

BookCrossing Against Censorship: A Program for Teens Amanda McKinlay
Library student Amanda McKinlay developed a BookCrossing program for teens as part of a library school assignment. Her paper serves as a great resource on the details of her project.

EZ Program Details - Teen CD/Video/Movie/Book Swap
Offers program information on how teens can swap media, including books, with other teens.

Learn, Create, Share @ Your Library – YALSA
The YALSA 2010 Tech Week wiki features programming resources, including links, booklists, display ideas, and more focused on the "Learn, Create, Share @ your Library" theme.

Helping Hands (and Paws): The Story of How One Library's Summer Reading Program was for the Dogs—Literally

(Included with Permission)

by Jane Klein, Lauren Kurz, Jess Marine, Becky Sheridan and Stephanie Scordia

Imagine walking into your local library to find a roomful of children reading to cats and dogs. You might wonder what kind of library it is, but at the Easttown Library & Information Center (ELIC), reading to animals was only one part of our ambitious 2007 summer reading program - Reading to Raise the Woof!

We designed a summer reading program that would allow everyone in the community to read to raise money for Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR), a local animal shelter. This was reading with a specific purpose: to support abandoned cats and dogs. We were offering our readers an innovative type of summer reading program; for books read, our readers were engaging in a community effort to support a worthy cause. No one involved, especially our young readers, was going to settle for anything less than meeting our goals.

We had just seven weeks to reach our target of 11,000 books—quite a goal for a new summer reading program model. As week four saw us just about half way to our benchmark, we wondered if perhaps our goal was too zealous. However, we were certain that our readers would respond favorably — and they did. By week seven we were asking ourselves why we had agreed to 11,000 books when we realized we could have aimed for 14,000!

The Idea

One morning in October of 2006, the Youth Services librarian was thinking aloud to a coworker. She expressed the desire to do something different for the upcoming summer reading program— something that changed the focus from reading for prizes to reading for a higher cause. And so it was that the seed was planted for the program that would become Reading to Raise the Woof! With the support of the library's Director, Alan Silverman, the program flourished. The partnerships that evolved in the next several months would form the framework for our new model.


A core reason for the popularity of our program was the intricate web of interactions that made the program possible. From the start, we set out to create a reading program that would facilitate interaction on many different levels. As the summer unfolded so did our finest intentions. Not only did community organizations collaborate with our library, but every day we noticed an ongoing synergy happening. It was not uncommon to observe a five-year old excitedly explaining a favorite character to a teen volunteer or to watch entire families arrive at the library wearing the SRP t-shirt as they came in to report on books they had read.

The Partnerships

Our first step was to partner with the staff of Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR), who were in the midst of a capital building campaign. Additionally, three area financial institutions (First Priority Bank of Malvern, Corporate Planning Group, Delaware Valley Financial Group) agreed to donate 50 cents for each book read through the program up to a maximum of $5,500; thus 11,000 books. First Priority Bank also donated money to help defray the cost of t-shirts, as did the Friends of the Easttown Library. Other partners included the Bagel Factory in Berwyn, which donated $1,000 worth of free bagel coupons for distribution to summer reading participants. Maggie Moo's Ice Cream and Treatery donated coupons for a free ice cream as a thank you to our teen volunteers. Through their significant participation in Reading to Raise the Woof!, these companies proved to be advocates for learning in the community, while also revealing their commitment to promoting literacy on all levels.

Community Collaborations

We hoped to foster connections between the library and as many members of the community as we could engage in the program. To that end, we formed alliances that included day care centers, preschools and two local summer schools who serve students with learning differences. Adults were encouraged to read, too, and by the end of the program accounted for nearly 400 participants and 14% of the books read.

Finding an Identity

Since we were deviating from the state summer reading program model, we needed to create a separate identity for our new program. Library staff members worked together to choose a name. The logo was designed and applied to t-shirts, the newsletter, the web site, press releases, and collateral material. Emily Klein, a local high school senior, photographed some of the rescue animals at MLAR. These images were used in a slide show and on posters and became a symbol for the excitement and goodwill surrounding Reading to Raise the Woof!


For over 20 years, the Youth Services staff has found ways to incorporate teen volunteers in the summer reading program. This year was no exception. Over 40 local teens, ranging from age twelve to seventeen, signed up to volunteer with Reading to Raise the Woof! Many volunteers were familiar faces who had been coming to the library since they were in preschool; many had volunteered in past summer reading programs. Before the summer reading program began, the teen volunteers were required to participate in a training session. Though they assisted with other summer programs, the teen volunteers' primary responsibility was for the most crucial aspect of Reading to Raise the Woof!—conducting reporting sessions with younger readers.

The Format

During the reporting sessions, volunteers sat with program participants and engaged the young readers in a short discussion about the books they had read. The sessions involved a fun, thought-provoking board game created specifically for the summer reading program. After rolling the dice and moving to the designated space, the volunteer would ask the reader specific questions; thus engaging them further in what they had read. This provided a tool for discussion about favorite pictures, interesting characters, or even questions about how the reader would change the ending if they could. Afterwards, volunteers recorded the titles of the books on the participant's reporting form.

In the past, the kids read to earn "book bucks" throughout the summer and redeemed them for small prizes at the end of the program. This year, after receiving a t-shirt for the first book read and a coupon for a free bagel for the second book, the kids were reading solely to raise money for the animals.

Young Readers

Week after week, it was common to see a connection form between a six or seven-year-old reader and a teen volunteer. We believe it is important for young readers to see teenagers excited about reading and the summer reading program allowed these relationships to develop. In this way, teen volunteers act as mentors and show younger library customers that reading can be fun. The teens benefit too; they feel invested in the reading development of younger kids in the community and they know there are making a tangible difference.

Older Readers

Teens and adults participated in the program by filling out postcard-size forms scattered throughout the library or through online reporting, a format especially popular with teens. Adults and teens followed a link on the library homepage to the summer reading reporting page, where they filled out a reporting form for each book they read. On this page, they were able to rate the book, anywhere from one to four "woofs," and, if desired, they could post a review or comments about the book as well. Interestingly, this is the first summer that online reporting was available for adults and the number of adults who participated and reported online certainly surpassed expectations. Online reporting was a convenient way to report, even from one's own home, and allowed teens and adults to actively participate in the summer reading program.

Reading, Writing…and Reading Some More

We felt that it was important to focus on all aspects of literacy development: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Our efforts to include writing segments in this reading program were highly successful. Teens submitted book reviews online which were posted throughout the library. Other programs that supported our goal are listed below.

The Writing Center

A writing center was established to encourage communication between youth and the animals at MLAR. The center was set up on a table with chairs and included a computer running a slide show of photographs of the animals, a red, white and blue post office box, pencils, and forms to write notes on. The notes were delivered to MLAR and posted on the walls of their office by staff.

Writing with Animals

The program Writing with Animals was held in collaboration with staff from Main Line Animal Rescue and was arguably one of the most popular programs of the summer. Over the course of four weeks, four different dogs visited to meet with youth who wrote brief descriptions of their rescue stories. The writing was published on the MLAR web site and was instrumental in helping with the adoption of the animals by families who read the animals' stories.

Reading with Animals

For four consecutive weeks in July, ELIC partnered with Pals for Life, a local non-profit organization that provides therapy animals to hospitals, school, and rehabilitation centers. Pals for Life visited the library four times, bringing dogs, cats, and rabbits to our program called Reading with Animals. Each session consisted of several groups of very excited young readers gathered around an animal, waiting a turn to read a favorite story aloud to a furry friend. Children took turns reading for about five minutes, while a volunteer or another child held the animal. The smaller animals were typically wrapped in a blanket, and seemed to be paying attention to the young reader's story. We suspect that the innate bond between animals and children was the cause of the program's popularity. We noticed that many of the children who signed up to read for the first session came back again and again. At the end of the program, as interested siblings, parents, and caregivers wandered into the room to spend a moment with the four-legged visitors, we could not help but revel in everyone's smiles.

Happy Endings

By the last day of the program we had extended well beyond our goal of 11,000 books and could hardly contain our excitement at reading 13,881 books in just seven weeks. Reading to Raise the Woof! was an undeniable success on many levels; it saw library staff, adults, teens, children, local businesses, schools, and organizations uniting to raise money for a community cause. All that's left to do now is come up with next year's theme, because after such a unique, fulfilling program, we know there is no going back.

Jane Klein is a storyteller and graphic designer. Lauren Kurz is the summer reading coordinator and youth services assistant. Jess Marine and Stephanie Scordia are summer reading staff, and Becky Sheridan is the youth services librarian. All work at the Easttown Library & Information Center, 720 First Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312. Telephone 610-644-0138. Comments are welcome and may be sent to Becky Sheridan,

Reading to Raise the Woof—-By the Numbers

K-5 Readers – 555
Teens - 126
Adults – 381
Total Readers – 1,062
Books Reported Online – 1,389
Books Reported in Person – 10,345
Books Reported in Writing – 1,169
Books Read in Library Storytimes – 977

Total Books Read -13,881

Dog Casey Dog mikey

Casey from Main Line Animal Rescue

Mikey from Main Line Animal Rescue


Cat June Animal Rescue Logo

June from Main Line Animal Rescue

Logo designed by Jane Klein

Photos by Stephanie Scordia, Emily Klein and Becky Sheridan

Texas Teens Read 2011! Programming Manual / Going Global, Staying Connected!
Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: August 15, 2011