New York State Library Personal History Initiative and Summer Reading 2020 “Imagine Your Story” 

Although we are all being asked to do the same things – maintain social distance, stay in our homes, support essential workers, etc. – each of us feels the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic in unique ways. The experiences of all New Yorkers make up the foundation of our state’s history. To record and preserve the unprecedented, historical events unfolding around us currently, Manuscripts and Special Collections (MSC) encourages all New Yorkers to contribute to the COVID-19 Personal History Initiative. A diary or journal. A photograph. A video. An art project. How have you recorded the events of the past several months or expressed your feelings about the pandemic?

The idea for a collaboration involving the NYSL COVID-19 Personal History Initiative and Summer Reading  2020 came together during a virtual meeting of State Library colleagues who were involved in the initial development and launch of the Personal History initiative.  We immediately recognized the strong connection between young people documenting their personal history during the pandemic, and the 2020 Summer Reading theme of folklore and fairy tales and telling your own story.  So we wanted to spread the word statewide about the Personal History Initiative while connecting it to Summer Reading and Summer Learning, and  realized that a webinar would be the most effective way to reach library staff all across the state.  The July 1 webinar slides and recording ​ as well as some project examples are available on this page to give you some helpful ideas to support programming during this strange and unusual summer of quarantines and social distancing.  

Libraries all over NY State have worked hard over the last few months to rework their plans and adapt their Summer Reading and Summer Learning programs to a very different and challenging virtual environment. They have come up with many creative solutions and programs and offerings to keep kids engaged this summer.  Do you have some awesome and creative personal history narrative ideas to share from your library?  Please send them to Marisa Gitto at or Sharon Phillips at and we may include them on this page!  


Ideas for Summer Reading Projects using the NYSL COVID-19 Personal History Initiative!

  1. Explore New York—NYSL, DLD site provide reading list suggestions with themes of NYS history, diversity, and culture.  Young people can read books from the suggested reading lists, and create a journal/scrapbook of how they are exploring NYS this summer during the time of COVID-19.  Young people can create a photojournal with words, photographs, pictures, graphics or a collage and provide information on their NYS adventures.
  2. Imagine/Reimagine Your NYS or Beyond Story—Young people can create their own adventures by reading books from Explore New York suggestions from the provided reading lists or other suggested reading materials such as folktales, folklore, fairytales, etc., and imagine/reimagine themselves as the main character of their story during the time of COVID-19.  Young people can create their own picture book, fairytale, folktale, or folklore, graphic novel, etc. and draw, illustrate, use graphics to create their own imagine/reimagined story in New York State or another place of wonder.
  3. NYS Neighborhood Exploration—Young people can explore their NYS neighborhood by sharing what they see around them during COVID-19. They may wish to read and consult a local newspaper to find resources and historical facts to provide culturally and diverse perspectives of what is currently happening in relation to their neighborhood or local region. Young people can take photographs, draw pictures, collect artifacts from their neighborhood or local area, and create a written journal, illustration or oral history using video/phone.
  4. Parent/Caregiver Interview—Young people can interview their parents and/or caregivers to find out what story he or she enjoyed as a child and why.  Young people can ask:  Why was the story important to you?  Do you think I would enjoy the book, why or why not?  How would the story relate during the time of COVID-19?  Young people can choose a variety of ways to collect the information of the parent/caregiver interview:  written, video, oral history, graphic novel, illustration with words and pictures, and or photographs, etc.
  5. Kid Talks with Books—Young people can choose which Summer Reading book was most influential to them and why. They can choose a variety of ways to present the information:  written paragraph to explain to other children why they should read the book, create video presenting the book to other children (showing images, text, etc.), or create a mini-version of the highlights of the books with words, pictures, or graphic novels.   They may wish to share why this book was important to the reader during the time of COVID-19.
  6. Explore Author and/or Illustrator—Young people can research what their favorite author/illustrator is working on, or creating during the time of COVID-19. They can find out how writing or making art helps during this time period in history.  Young people can find information by reviewing the author and or illustrator websites, newspapers, blogs, museums, etc.  Young people can create and share by creating a mini-book or graphic novel on what their favorite author and/or illustrator is doing during this historical time.  Young people can write, use images, sketch, make a collage of their research.
      Helpful sites and or information for research include:

      1. Eric Carle Museum’s Online Exhibit: Art in Place Social Distancing in the Studio
      2. School Library Journal page: Kid Lit Authors Step Up to Help Educators, Students and Parents
      3. Harper Collins: At Home Resources for Kids and Families During Coronavirus 2020
      4. New York Times article: Home with Your Kids? Writers Want to Help
  7. Memory Box—Collecting items to remember during this time is quite important. What have you found to place in your memory box?  How are you decorating your memory box?  What are you writing to place in your special box? What photographs or pictures are you collecting to place in your box?  Are you placing a book in your memory box? Write a journal of what you are placing in your box and why.  You can share how this helps during this historic time period.
  8. NYS Day Trips—Are you taking a day trip in NYS this summer to a park, beach, historic site, etc.? Are you reading a book or graphic novel on route during your day trip?  How are you exploring the area? Are you sketching or drawing during the time?  Chronicle your day trips with a day trip planner.  You can create one with a small notebook or journal.  You can add drawings, mementos, pictures, photographs and add text to share your experiences.
  9. NYS Fairytale—Create a NYS fairytale. Where is the NYS location and setting?  What is the plot of the story?  Who are the characters?  How does the story end?  Write, add drawings, photographs or images.  After the writing of the NYS fairytale, write your author biography.  Share why the creation of the fairytale was a positive experience during the time of COVID-19.
  10. Letter—Write a letter to yourself of what you hope for in 10 years. Share how you are feeling during this time period, what books or graphic novels you have read, and how school assignments and school itself changed.  Share what you are hopeful for in the future.
  11. Picnic—What would you like to take with you if you are going on a picnic in your local area or around NYS? What would you do during the picnic?  What would you read?  What do you notice in nature around you when you are sitting on a blanket enjoying your food?  Do you see other family’s having picnics, too?  Are you writing in your journal creating special memories?  What would you like to share?  Create a journal entry during this special day with family or caregivers.
  12. Beach Day in the Backyard, Deck, etc.—If you cannot go to the beach this summer, how could you create a beach day in your backyard, deck, living room or bedroom. In a journal entry, write what you need to create your own beach this summer.  Is there a beach blanket, do you have a book or graphic novel, do you bring snacks, etc.  There will be no water and sand, but imagine the sound of the waves, smell of sunscreen, and people laughing, swimming, and playing.  In your journal, share the imagination of what you hear, smell, see.  Create a poem, dream board, or story based on your journal entry beach day.
  13. Postcards to Friends—Receiving an item in the mail is always fun. Create a postcard to send to a friend you miss seeing during the summer.  You can draw, sketch, etc.  Let your friend know what are you doing during the summer.  Share what you are reading, and why it’s a really good book or graphic novel.
  14. Postcards to Your Local Library—Create a postcard to your local librarian or other library staff member you miss seeing during the summer of COVID-19. Share how you are spending your time this summer and of course what you are reading.  You may wish to include what you miss about visiting your local library, and how you are looking forward to visiting when you are able.
  15. New York, New York—Make a wordless picture book based on New York State. Where do you like to visit most in New York and why?  How has the location or space changed over time?  During the time of COVID-19, have you visited?  Do you feel it is different?  Without words or text, explain your feelings on this special New York place with just images, pictures, visuals, or photographs, etc.  Make sure the images flow and contain a beginning, middle and end to the wordless picture storybook.
  16. Poster of Summer Reading-Imagine/Reimagine Your Story—How do you think the poster should reflect this year’s Summer Reading Program during the COVID-19 crisis? How would you change it and why?  Re-create the Summer Reading Imagine/Reimagine Your Story poster for your local library.  Share your thoughts about this year’s program at the bottom of the poster with imagery and text.
  17. Collage of Images—Make a collage of images and or other materials to share your thoughts about COVID-19. Has this time period changed you?  Express your feelings through visual media.  You can choose how you relay the messages via words, photographs, pictures, sketches, drawings, mixed media, etc.
  18. Video—Make a video using your phone or other device to share your experience of how the library has helped you during the time of COVID-19.
  19. New York Strong—What is the most positive experience of New York Strong you have seen during the time of COVID-19? How has this experience made you grow as a human being during this time period?  How has the experience made you stronger?  Explain New York Strong by writing in your journal, making a mini-book or graphic novel to share your experiences.
  20. Plant a Tree—In the spirit of New York Strong, plant a tree in honor of the heroes and victims of COVID-19. Take photographs and share a memory of the experience in your journal.



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