I think I saw this idea first from Abby, and then somewhere else, and the next thing I knew it was a big thing and I wanted it. I decided to hold our Family Fort Night after hours on a Friday night, and I was pretty nervous because I haven’t had huge success with evening programs.
In my family when we were little we would have reading parties. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: everyone sits down and reads. On the promotion for our program, I said that families could build a fort and have a reading party in the fort! I advertised heavily, and requested that families register so we knew if anyone even wanted to come.
We close at 6 on Fridays, so I started the program at 5:30, knowing that it would take a while for everyone to arrive, but that the library could close as normal and we wouldn’t have to worry about letting in anyone else. As families arrived, I handed out snacks to keep them occupied, s’mores in a cup (teddy grahams, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips)
stolen borrowed from the programs I’d read about.
My colleague who was working late for the program with me brought in a fire pit, which we filled with real fire! Just kidding. We used tissue paper and white christmas lights, but it looked freaking awesome.
I started the program by reading some scary (not really) stories:
Leo: a ghost story by Mac Barnett
The dark by Lemony Snicket
Leonardo the terrible monster by Mo Willems
There was one really young kid, 2 years old, who is a storytime regular, and he did so well through all the longer stories, I was super impressed.
After the library closed, I explained to parents that we would go out into the library and build reading forts for about 30 minutes. We were restricted to the second floor (where the children’s room is), and everyone would need to take the elevator out at the end of the night. Then I released them, with lots of extra sugar.
We had a pile of blankets, and most families brought a few of their own as well. For the next 30 minutes, we just walked around watching the building and reading that was going on. It was GREAT. Some of the older kids were really getting into the building, some families hunkered down. One family added a kitchen to hold the snacks they brought, and a secret back door. An older brother/sister duo held tours and opened up their fort for the rest of the kids to explore.
One family split up- dad and the son in the fort reading together and mom and the daughter cuddled in our bean bag chairs reading. The 2 year old had fun reading with his parents in the fort, and then everyone took turns hiding in the fort while the others knocked on the door looking for the hider.
Some of the families with younger kids started to head out after about 30 minutes, and I gave the clean up warning. All the kids helped with clean up, and it went really smoothly.
This is one of the most successful and easiest programs I’ve ever done, and the feedback I got was wonderful. A ton of people came, including at least two families I’d never seen, the families all loved it; my little storytime guy has been building forts in his living room ever since! I can’t wait to do this again.