Denver Public Library Revolutionizes Summer Reading Programs With Summer of Adventure

Denver Public Library’s (DPL) Summer of Adventure program is more than a conventional summer reading program – it’s a new way of engaging kids in exploring and independent investigation.

Summer of Adventure

Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library Facebook

The SoA program, first implemented in the summer of 2017, invites children to work their brains beyond the book page by challenging them to complete activities in three categories: read, make and explore. This summer, the program has taken further steps by offering programming for the whole family and the “Maker Challenge,” a creative competition that invites kids to show off their at-home skills from cooking to singing to carpentry.

“The program started by looking at how kids learn. All kids learn in different ways,” said Yanira Duarte, Denver Public Library’s director of the SoA program. “Some kids want to make or listen or read, so what are those different ways?”

Summer of Adventure Maker Challenge

Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library Facebook

Rather than demanding participants to read for 10 hours over the summer — a hallmark of past programs — SoA requires completing 15 activities within the three branches of the program and offers a free book at the completion of the program. The program provides suggested activities for all three categories broken down by age group and changed weekly on Monday. The suggestions include a recipe for foam paint, instructions for constructing an indoor moving lane and a hula-hopping challenge, to name a few.

“What it boils down to is providing kids with choice on the things kids want to do and read,” said Duarte. The DPL strives to offer all types of books to children over the summer, whether that be graphic novels, non-fiction, or books above or below a child’s “traditional” reading level. Librarians also offer reader advisory to kids looking for books similar to their favorites.

Kids playing in a library

Photo Courtesy of Denver Children’s Library Facebook

Summer of Adventure, or SoA, however, is about way more than book recommendations. This year, the DPL is also offering Movies in the Park on Thursday evenings and Geocaching at branch locations.

“SoA is not just about the youth, but bringing the whole family together,” said Duarte. Over the past few summers, this became especially clear as adults became more involved with the program due to COVID as libraries canceled in-person programs and shuttered their public spaces. Since then, the program has been moving more in the direction of family engagement, Duarte explained.

Denver kids reading

Photo Courtesy of Decker Public Library Facebook

In addition, DPL also expanded its Summer Meals program this year. The program, which offers meals to children at some branch locations, typically operates between 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. from June 6 to August 19.

“We have kids that come from the time we open to the time we close,” Duarte said. “So, it’s about how we can better provide services to youth in that way as well.”

Today, over 8,000 children throughout the county of Denver are enrolled in the SoA program. Though the program began on June 3, kids are welcome to register online or in-person at their local DPL library until August 6.

“COVID had a large impact on those numbers and I wish there were more [participants], but we will take every kid who wants to participate in the summer program,” said Duarte.

Like most summer library programs, DPL offers a free book upon completion of the SoA program, while supplies last.

According to Duarte, graphic novels are always a crowd favorite, but this summer’s popular titles include Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, Jackie Ha-Ha by Chris Grabenstein and James Patterson, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez and Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.

For more information and to register for Denver Public Library’s Summer of Adventure, click here.