The Joy of Creation | Creating the Summer Reading Program

This Saturday marks the end of the Children’s Summer Reading Program at my work, Baker Book House. The theme this year was “The Nature of God” and was inspired by the series of the same name published by Zondervan.

There were a few reasons that we went with this them:

  • It is a great series
  • Kids love animals
  • The author lives in Michigan and is super cool
  • Baker was under construction and we couldn’t host indoor events

All good reasons, but the last one was a big one.

Last year’s theme centered on the Berenstain Bears. We hosted Mike Berenstain for a book-reading/signing. We rented Mama/Papa/Brother/Sister Bear costumes and promoted the program on the street outside the bookstore (you couldn’t pay me enough to get back into one of those costumes without some kind of fan installed inside). We had weekly activities to get kids back into the store and the participants were entered to win an original drawing from Mike Berenstain himself. It was a great program, but it required a lot of space and time within the walls of the bookstore.

If you’ve seen the bookstore lately, you’ll know that only half of the walls are still standing (but we REALLY ARE still open for business). Anyway, we didn’t have the space or the time to devote to the weekly in-store activities.

But it worked out. I contacted Peter Schriemer and asked his thoughts on using his materials as the basis for the summer reading program. He loved it. We met up and brainstormed some of the offsite activities that we could do, how we could get kids to read AND enjoy nature. It was a beautiful arrangement.

We set up events at the John Ball Zoo, Meijer Gardens, and Blandford Nature Center, where Peter even joined us and the kids got to hang out with him and identify bugs in a field. Good times.

The funny thing in all of this is that, though putting the program together takes up a ton of time (setting up the events, designing the guidebook, selecting and implementing the theme, marketing the program to kids, etc.), only a small part of the whole thing SHOULD fall under my job responsibilities at work. Mostly, it should be up to the Children’s Buyer to set up the program.

But I ask to do it every year. I love setting up the Children’s Summer Reading Program. There were times when the normal aspects of my job (boring things like arguing with the website designers over whose fault it is that international customers must select a state within the USA as their residence before they are allowed to place an order) would become so infuriating that the Reading Program was like therapy to me.

In the midst of professional chaos, I was able to retreat to a creative place and craft something beautiful and innocent, something inspiring and wholly good. At least, that was what I was going for.

And now the program is coming to an end. The kids who participated are coming in, guidebooks in hand, showing off how many books they have read and getting rewarded with gift certificates for even more books to enjoy.

On one hand, it is sad that the program must come to an end, but for me, it came to an end a while ago, just after the books came in from the printers and kids started picking them up.

You see, for me, the fun part of the whole thing is in the creating. Of course, I get a swell of pride once the project has been completed. But once the thing exists and I have seen that it is good, it is not as important to me. Its use and implementation are someone else’s job.

My job is to dream and bring into being. And I love my job.

Now to dream up Next Year’s program!

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