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Too often businesses think that if they advertise everywhere and post everything on social media, they will magically receive countless leads, more loyal customers and increase their bottom line.  In order for you to craft the right messages to get concerted results, you must identify what outcome you are looking for and then proceed to target the right market with the right message through the right medium! Summer reading programs (SRPs) have been a staple for many, if not most, public libraries since the turn of the twentieth century.
Over the last two decades, research continues to show that reading scores tumble while voluntary reading rates diminish as children move from childhood to late adolescence.
One of the common assumptions about SRPs is that they are valuable in many ways for the children participating. While there is a plethora of literature pertaining to SRPs, there is little literature that focuses on the evaluation of these programs. Students who do not engage in educational activities during the summer typically score lower on tests at the end of summer than they did at the beginning.
Summer school programs that focus on lessening or removing learning deficiencies have a positive impact on the knowledge and skills of participants.
Summer school programs focusing on the acceleration of learning or on other multiple goals also have a positive impact on participants roughly equal to remedial programs.
Summer school programs have more positive effects on the achievement of middle-class students than on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Remedial summer programs have larger positive effects when the program is run for a small number of schools or classes or in a small community.
Summer programs that provide small group or individual instruction produce the largest impact on student outcomes. Summer programs that require some form of parental involvement produce larger, positive effects than programs without this component.
The achievement advantage gained by students who attend summer school may diminish over time.
Remedial summer school programs have positive effects for students at all grade levels, although the effects may be most pronounced for students in early primary grades and secondary school than in middle grades.
Summer programs that undergo careful scrutiny for treatment fidelity, including monitoring to ensure that instruction is being delivered as prescribed, monitoring of attendance, and removal from the evaluation of students with many absences, may produce larger effects than unmonitored programs. Summer reading setback is one of the important factors contributing to the reading achievement gap between rich and poor children.
There is little difference in reading gains between children from high- and low-income families during the school year. Children from high-income families make superior progress in reading over the summer, and over time the summer advantage can account for the social-class differences in reading achievement. Children from lower-income families have more restricted access to books (both in school and out of school) than do their more advantaged peers. The traditional SRP is designed primarily for elementary school children to promote independent reading during the summer vacation. Three-fourths of the libraries noted that circulation increases from 6 to 10 percent during the summer with the assumption that most of this increase can be attributed to the SRP. Children who attend summer library programs read on a higher level than those who do not attend—including those children who attend summer camp programs. Library events related to a SRP (crafts, songs, drama, storytelling, and puppetry) extend the reading experience.
Eleven percent of the parents reported that they spend more time reading with or to their children (fifteen hours or more per week). Teachers reported that 31 percent of the participants had maintained or improved their reading skills compared to 5 percent of nonparticipants. Stephen Krashen asserts that free voluntary reading is the best way to better reading and language development.3 In short, practice makes perfect.
Focusing on the evaluation of the SRP can be beneficial from several different perspectives.
Using Richard Orr’s4 familiar evaluation model, it is possible to organize the many measures that libraries have used or could use in the evaluation of a SRP (see figure 1).
Input measures typically include the monetary and staffing resources to plan, implement, and evaluate the SRP. Budget—Some portion of the budget will need to be devoted to promotional materials, marketing expenses, signage, and incentives (if used). Staff—Library employees will be responsible for planning, conducting, and evaluating the program.
Collections—Some portions of the collection may need to be organized as a part of the SRP theme for that particular summer. Obviously the intent of the SRP theme and the use of marketing materials are designed to encourage children to sign up for the program.
Uncommitted readers—People who do not like to read but indicate they may read sometime in the future.
Outcome-based performance measures attempt to measure the effect of the library’s SRP in the lives of the children, their families, and ultimately upon the community. In addition to focusing on the participating children (teens), it is also possible to involve the parents or adult caregivers and teachers in the assessment process, especially if the library wants to identify theoutcomes or impacts of the SRP.
Obviously it requires considerably more effort to gather outcome-based measures about the impact of a SRP than it does to gather output measures. In order to better understand how public libraries are currently evaluating their SRPs, a brief survey was prepared.6 A Web-based survey was available from May 12, 2009, until June 30, 2009. Because research has shown that the number of books read during the summer is important, some libraries track the number of books read. Similarly, some 31.82 percent of the responding libraries track the amount of time spent reading by each participant.
In addition, the library wishing to learn one important perspective is to ask parents or guardians about their views of the impact of the SRP in the lives of their children.


Almost two-thirds of the libraries (66.29 percent) offer a separate teen SRP, and some libraries even develop a SRP for adults.
Some of the respondents provided comments about how they identify other outcomes of the SRP. From the results of this survey, it is clear that public libraries could be and should be doing more to identify the impact of the SRP in the lives of the participants. A public library should identify a minimum set of performance measures that will be consistently gathered year after year. Periodically the library could include additional SRP assessment activities to complement the regular evaluation efforts. Developing a better understanding of the reasons why children drop out of the SRP would allow a library to design a program that is more compelling and keep the attention (and participation) of children during the summer.
Consider an outreach strategy that takes the SRP to children without requiring children to physically visit the library.
Explore the possibility of developing partnerships with the local schools to involve teachers in assessment of the library’s SRP.
Develop an online version of the SRP that would appeal to yet another segment of the community currently not being served by the library.
The benefits to the children and to the community of a public library’s SRP are significant and positive, especially to those at-risk children who will likely experience “summer reading loss.” The public library must become much more aggressive about reaching more children than the 10 percent of the community that are traditionally frequent library users. The Web-based survey was graciously hosted by Counting Opinions, a firm that provides comprehensive, cost-effective, real-time solutions designed for libraries, in support of customer insight, operational improvements, and advocacy efforts.
Walter Minkel, “Making a Splash with Summer Reading: Seven Ways Public Libraries Can Team Up with Schools,” School Library Journal 49, no. Publiclibrariesonline.org is the companion website to the bi-monthly print publication “Public Libraries,” the official magazine of the Public Library Association. PL and PLonline are the only industry publications focused entirely on public libraries and public librarians. Understanding who your client is will help you serve their needs and keep them coming back.
Identifying specific desired objectives vis-a-vis each stakeholder, determining specifically the membership of each stakeholder group, examining media preferences of each group, development of a step by step plan to implement necessary tactics, and using evaluative research to check on the communication process (us and timing of tactics) and measuring the extent to which one has achieved the measurable objectives for each stakeholder group. Their popularity attests to the continuing value of encouraging reading among primary and secondary grade children in communities across the nation.
This phenomenon is sometimes called “summer loss,” “summer learning loss,” or “summer reading setback.” One consistent finding of a number of research studies is that “summer reading setback”— presumably the result of a lack of adequate reading practice—is a very real phenomenon.
One real discouraging note is that nine year-old children read more than their thirteen- and seventeen-year-old counterparts. Reading practice improves word recognition, builds vocabulary, improves fluency and comprehension, is a powerful source of world knowledge, and is a way to develop understandings of complex written language syntax and grammar. What literature there is can be conveniently divided into two broad categories: summer school programs and public library SRPs. This is a result of the fact that children from high-income families tend to read more over the summer. A number of studies suggest that reading four to six books over the summer helps readers maintain their skills, and reading ten to twenty books helps improve their skills. If the library is soliciting contributions from the community to support the SRP, an evaluation provides the numbers and the stories to make a compelling story. Some libraries solicit funds from community organizations for the SRP so that, other than staff time, all the costs are borne by the donated funds. In addition to tracking who is participating and what is being accomplished, some libraries ask staff members to also track the time they spend on the SRP.
In addition to avid readers, the library needs to recognize that three other groups may be more resistant to the marketing message.
The SRP participants might show improvement in a skill level, knowledge, confidence, behavior, or attitude based on a qualitative or quantitative assessment. In order for an outcome-based measure to resonate with decision makers it would need to meet at least two criteria: (1) The SRP and the outcome must be closely linked—there must be a cause-and-effect relationship, and (2) The outcome must be measurable in a consistent and reliable manner. Because this was a convenience or accidental sample rather than a random survey, only descriptive statistics are reported. The survey respondents indicated that 92.80 percent of libraries identify the number of children who register for the program. A little more than one-third (34.47 percent) of the responding public libraries track the number of books read during the SRP. A little more than one-fifth of libraries (21.59 percent) report that they involve parents or guardians in the evaluation process. Slightly more than two-thirds of the responding libraries (69.30 percent) prepare a written evaluation report about the SRP. These comments suggest the interest of librarians to better understand the impacts of the program but clearly none of the approaches are systematic. If libraries were to adopt a multi-pronged approach in evaluating SRPs by gathering data about the use of the program and determining the impact from the perspective of the children, parents, and teachers, they would begin to develop the data that would resonate with funders. For example, the library may want to discover the degree to which SRP participants continue to use library resources once the program has concluded. A library can quickly obtain information about the number of children in its community using census data. For example, the Torrance (Calif.) Public Library placed stickers on the elementary school report cards going home to parents. Thus, the public library should be reaching out to latchkey programs, day care centers, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, summer camp programs, summer recreation programs, and local home schoolers. The challenge for the library is to evaluate the impacts of the SRP using a broader array of methods and to communicate the results of the evaluation efforts to the community’s stakeholders.


This means taking a serious look at the inner workings of your marketing and social media plan. However, most children do very little reading out of school, and only a small number of children read for extended periods of time. Thinking about the outcomes the library would like to achieve in the lives of the children and their families will help the library determine what kind of SRP the library should be providing and what kind of data it should be collecting to demonstrate actual impact.
Children sign up for the program and a percentage of those who start will complete the program (outputs).
A total of 264 responses were received from public libraries located in 31 states, which represents almost two-thirds of all states. Almost as many libraries—some 79.17 percent of the survey respondents—track the number of children who complete the SRP.
And of the sixty libraries reporting data, the average number of books read per participant was twenty-seven.
Of the reporting libraries, the parents or guardians note that improvements have been made in reading comprehension, vocabulary has improved, and time spent reading increased between 20 to 25 percent of the time as shown in figure 2. Obviously data reported to the state library should be considered as part of the minimum set of measures that are tracked. Or the library could compare where participants live with the location of all children in the community. Every public library should be making this calculation as a part of their program goal setting process. This approach also suggests setting some specific targets for each market segment rather than relying on total registration numbers.
Locke, The Effectiveness of Summer Reading Programs in Public Libraries in the United States. At certain points in your business, money may be more valuable than time, and other points, vice versa.
Doing an internal and external audit of where your business really is, and not where you think it is, will give you a real picture of where you stand.  This would also be a good place to examine your strengths and weaknesses.  What are you doing right and what have you done that hasn’t worked?
And the children, their families, and the community will experience immediate and long-term consequences (outcomes). The average size of the community of the responding libraries was 55,966 with the range of size quite variable (the maximum population was 381,833; the minimum size was 558). The opportunities for spending time in various summer activities that do not involve trips to the library are many.
And only a very small number of libraries track the number of pages read by each participant, with some 4.17 percent of the libraries reporting they gather this information. In addition, surprisingly few libraries calculate the percentage of SRP participants compared to school-age children in their community— only 13.64 percent of the respondents in this survey.
Twenty-five percent of the responding libraries indicate that they had conversations with teachers about the impact of the SRP in the lives of their students. To offset this imbalance, new business owners can spend more time networking, nurturing contacts, and running various aspects of their business.
Research is a critical component that too often is left out of the planning process.    Research is a continual part of the process that you have to take time to achieve if you want your overall plan to be succinct and, most of all, successful. Yet only 2.65 percent of the libraries partner with schools in the use of standardized reading tests to determine reading achievement as a result of participation in the SRP.
It is not uncommon for a startup to coordinate everything in their business from managing the financial books to doing their own marketing.Warning: Beware of Opportunity Costs! Just because you are spending time and not money, doesn’t mean that it’s the best solution. The time spent could be detracting you from other opportunities to grow your business.The Turning PointAs business develops, situations demanding your time increase to the point where time can become extremely limited making it more and more valuable. If you constantly think, “No one can do this better than me so I’ll have to do it myself.”, You will be limited as you can’t do everything forever and you will eventually run out of time.
Finding the right people and giving them the right vision and leadership is the only way out of this trap.
This ability of being able to acquire more money gives the edge to time of being more valuable.
However once you’re out of time, the game is over.Five Quick Questions to Evaluate Your Time vs Money Marketing Investment1. If you don’t have the funds to hire someone else to do it than you may need to do it yourself initially.2.
If you are a novice and not efficient at doing the effort, you may still be better off outsourcing the effort. Some people spend a decent amount of time trying to learn many aspects of other parts of their business only to find that by the time they start getting proficient in the skill, they are too busy to coordinate it anymore.5. It may be worth paying someone else just to have a better quality of life.In summary, as your business grows, an evaluation of your time vs money in your marketing investment should be ongoing. Be sure that you are aware of how much of your time you are spending on marketing efforts in order to stay profitable. Jen is an active member of her church and regular participant in their community volunteer initiatives. She enjoys traveling with her husband Will, is a “bonus mom” to his two teenage children, and is an avid painter and home cook.



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