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Library Programs: Teen Read-A-Thon

Friday night was the third teen Read-A-Thon I've hosted at my library. I posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and I heard from several librarians who wanted to know more-so here it is!

The Read-A-Thon was inspired by

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon and the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I had been talking to one of my teens how I was participating in a read-a-thon through my blog and she got very excited and said we should do one at the library.

Set Up:

Of course, we have to do it on a smaller scale at the library since I can't lock the teens in the building for 24 hours. So typically our read-a-thons run 2-3 hours, which seems to work well. I set up the group in one of the library meeting rooms and set up chairs and tables all around the room. I've brought in pillows and blankets in the past for the teens who want a more comfortable place to sit, but the teens are fine with sitting in the chairs or at the tables and reading. At each table I have a small stack of books, notecards and pens. I also order pizza and have snacks on hand for the teens and they come and go to the snack table throughout the evening.

Running the Program:

At the start of the event, I have the teens fill out a prize drawing entry form, since I'll be giving out prizes throughout the night. The first thing we do is "Book Speed Dating." The teens sit down at a table and I give them one minute to look through a book, make notes on the notecards and decide if they want to "date" that book. Then they switch. Some of the teens picked up books from the speed dating to check out or read that evening. Other teens came with a stack of books ready to read. I always make sure I have lots of books on hand for the teens who need something to read and very often these books get browsed and checked out after the event.

Then we read-simple as that! Everyone grabs a place to read and we read our books. I have the teens write down what page they start on and keep track of how many pages they read throughout the night. I also have them keep track of if they finished a book (doesn't matter if they had it started already or not before the event) and how many books they start that evening.

After about an hour I give out the first round of prizes. The prize table has books, bookmarks (some signed bookmarks that I've been able to collect), tote bags from ALA conferences-pretty much anything I can gather that I think will appeal to my core reader crowd. I draw names and let them select a prize. Since I haven't had huge crowds for any of my read-a-thons, I end up letting each teen select a prize since I have a large amount of prizes.

Then it's back to reading again! After about another hour of reading, it's break and prize time round two. Then we read a bit more, I call time and we pack up our stuff and head home. Friday nights teens (ten teens, one librarian) read 1,493 pages, finished 5 books and started (or continued) 11 books it just over two hours.

It's a simple program to run and the teens LOVE it! It appeals to the reader crowd already and honestly, it's not going to be a program that non-readers are going to get excited about it. It's a reader-centric program. But the group that I have that come are dedicated readers who love having a place to read-and know that there are other readers just like them. It's also a great opportunity to talk about what they're reading. During each of our breaks, I ask how everyone's book is, if they're enjoying it, would they recommend it, etc. It makes reading a more social event and I think that's why it's been popular. At the end of the evening, I had teens asking when the next one will be, which is always a good sign! I've even had staff ask if we can host an adult Read-A-Thon, so maybe a giant library Read-A-Thon is in our future!!:)

My next Read-A-Thon event will be hosted in June as a kick off to summer reading. I've hosted them during Teen Read Week, Spring Break and Winter Break. (Break time seems to work best since the teens have more free time and are pretty bored and looking for something to do).

Questions? Want to know more? Do you run a Read-A-Thon too? Let me know!


  1. Very interesting! I may have to give this program a shot. Thanks for sharing your successes with it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! Will definitely look into doing this at our library!

  3. Sounds like an absolutely fabulous time! I bet your teens love you for it!

  4. i want to partake in a read-a-thon! sadly, my library is quite small, but it sounds totally fun!!!

  5. How many books do you put out for your Book Speed Dating?
    and how many teens come to this program?

    sounds wonderful and gives teens a chance to check out new books!

  6. Patricia-This last Read-A-Thon I had ten, but I've had anywhere between 2-10. It's a smaller program, but lots of fun.

    As for the books, I put out four tables with four chairs and a book at each chair. (so 16 books total, but they didn't go through them all and not everyone wanted to participate in the speed dating, some just wanted to get right to the reading.)

  7. This sounds like so much fun! I wonder if you could eventually do an all night, lock-in read-a-thon?! The kiddos could read, read, read, and maybe watch a couple movies of book adaptations for when they start getting sleepy!

  8. Sarah, is this an after-hours program or are you guys open Friday evenings? This sounds like a great low-cost, low-prep program and I know a couple of my teens would be *really* into it, especially if we made it a regular event. I'll have to see what my teen librarian thinks about it..! (And I bet we could get a place to donate pizza or ice cream or something...)

  9. This sounds like such a cool program. I would love to do something like this, so thank you for posting the details on how you make it happen! Very inspiring, I love it.

  10. That sounds really fun. I especially like the idea of book speed dating.

  11. Abby-Yes, we're open on Friday evenings, so I book a meeting room. Otherwise if we had it after hours, I'd host it in the Teen Space with more comfy seating.

    Katie-Yes-I'd love to do it as a lock in someday! Great idea about the books to movies!:)

  12. I love this idea. We have actually been doing a reading lounge as part of our summer program for the past couple years (about the same turn-out wise). I like the idea of adding prizes and "speed-dating." I think I may have to "steal" those ideas.

  13. I'm curious... do you have a good mix of guys and girls coming out for this?

  14. It is very girl heavy-the most guys I've had has been two. But I think if I advertised it a bit more, I might be able to get some more guys in. I'm hoping the kickoff to SRP one will be a bigger draw because they can collect SRP prizes.

  15. This is such a great program! Thanks so much for posting. I've heard the idea before but was hoping to find details online - I did!

    - Jill


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