New York State Library Personal History Initiative and Summer Reading 2022 “Oceans of Possibilities”  

Documenting our personal history allows time for reflection, growth, helps us develop storytelling skills, and brings awareness to our experiences. As we prepare for the 2022 Summer Reading season with the theme of water and oceanography, we organized ideas and activities to help young people tell their personal story and explore things related to water and ocean topics. Do you have questions about these programs or activities or want to share a programming idea with us? Contact our Youth Services Program Manager at For more information about the NYS Library’s Personal History Initiative, contact Peter Nastasi.

The idea for a collaboration involving the NYS Library Personal History Initiative and Summer Reading initially came together in 2020 during a virtual meeting of State Library colleagues who were involved in the development and launch of the Personal History initiative.  Now as we prepare for the 2022 Summer Reading season with the theme of water and oceanography, we continue to recognize the strong connection between young people documenting their personal history during and after the pandemic as the world moves forward.  So we want to keep encouraging young adults to use these Summer Reading ideas and activities to tell their personal story and explore and learn about all things related to water and ocean topics. The July 1 2020 webinar slides and recording ​ as well as some updated project examples are available on this page to give you some helpful ideas to support programming during this summer period when things are rapidly evolving.

Libraries all over New York State continue to work hard to adapt their Summer Reading and Summer Learning programs to a very different and challenging environment. Once again, 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 related to the NYS Library’s Personal History Initiative!

  • Aquarium Kaleidoscope–Are you going to an aquarium this summer?  If you do, what types of aquatic animals do you see?  What various colors are seen at the aquarium?  Create a kaleidoscope (using a paper towel roll and place cellophane at the end of the roll with tape, use colorful pieces of tissue or construction paper) of all the amazing colors seen at the aquarium?
  • Photojournal–It’s always fun to go to the lake, the public swimming pool, riverside park, or the ocean.  What types of animals, aquatic animals or insects do you see?  Create a photojournal with text and digital images of the animals or insects.  Create names for the animals, create text of their thoughts or make up conversations between animal friends.
  • 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.  Do you have a beach blanket, a book or graphic novel, and do you bring snacks?  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 imaginative thoughts of what you hear, smell, see.  Create a poem, dreamboard, or story based on your journal entry beach day.
  • New York State Day Trips—Are you taking a day trip in New York State this summer to a park by the lake or river, beach, or waterfall, 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.
  • Picnic—What would you like to take with you if you are going on a picnic in your local area with a swimming pool, a park near water, or a beach?  What would you do during the picnic?  What would you read?  What special foods do you bring?  What do you notice around you when you are sitting on a blanket enjoying your food?  Do you see other families or friends having picnics, too?  Are you writing in your journal sharing special memories?  What are people doing near the water?  What would you like to share?  Create a journal entry during this special day with family, friends or caregivers.
  • Island Card Game-There are lots of islands in New York State including: Manhattan, Long Island, Ellis Island, Thousand Islands, and islands on the Adirondack lakes, etc.  Have you visited one of these islands or other islands of New York State?  Create a card game based upon the historical places visited on the islands or create a card game based upon the natural surroundings visited on the island.  Write simple directions on how to play the card game.  You may include:  historic sites, animals, aquatic animals, types of trees or flowers, places visited, etc.
  • Mini-cruises, Boat Tours and Ferries brochure-Have you taken a ride on one of the many small cruises, boat tours or ferries in New York State?  Have you been on the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour in Niagara Falls, Staten Island, Ellis Island or Governors Island Ferries, the steamboat rides of Lake George, or a mini-cruise on the Hudson River?  Create a brochure highlighting the cruise, ferry ride or boat tour in New York State.  Include points of interest noted on the tour and cool items you can experience and see on the tour.
  • Water Park Graphic Novel–Have you been to a water park in New York State?  What types of activities did you do there or rides did you go on?  Create a graphic novel  between two friends and the fun times they have at the water park.
  • I’m Possible Dreamboard–Anything is possible in life.  Use the phrase:  “I’m possible” to create a dreamboard for this summer and the new school year.  Use pictures, photographs, text, drawings, etc. to illustrate visually what you would like to do for the future year.   Where would you like to visit this year, what books will you be reading, and what activities will you be doing in the upcoming year
  • Water Sports Photojournal–What types of water sports have you enjoyed or would like to try?  Kayaking, paddle boats, water-skiing, white-water rafting, canoeing, swimming, sailing, jet skiing, etc.? Create a photojournal if you have experienced any of these water sports.  Include text and photos and share experiences.  If you would like to try a watersport, create a wish list of which water sports you would like to enjoy, where in New York State you would like to go to experience the activity, and why you would like to try the sport.
  • Gone Fishing–Have you ever tried to fish on a lake, river or ocean?  What kind of bait have you used?  How long have you waited to feel a pull from your fishing rod?  Did you catch and keep the fish or let it back into the water? Create a story or graphic novel related to the theme of Gone Fishing in New York State.
  • Make a Wish–there are lots of fountains within New York State.  Have you ever thrown a penny into a fountain and made a wish?  Create a story with the name of the New York State fountain and share the wish in the story.  Base the wish on the possibilities that could happen.  Another option is to research the history of the fountain and why the fountain was chosen for the park or institution?  Document the historical significance of the fountain with photos and text.
  • Lake and Sea Monsters of New York State—There are some myths and legends related to New York State lake and sea monsters.  Here are some:  Lake George’s Georgie, Lake Champlain’s Champ or Champy, Seneca Serpent on Seneca Lake, Old Greeny on Cayuga Lake, Su on the Beaverkill River, Long Island Sound’s Giant Squid, Lake Ontario Sea Serpent, etc.  Make puppets based upon the myths or legends of a New York State lake or sea monster.  You then can create a script and have a puppet show about the myth or legend.
  • Sandcastles and Sand Sculptures Oasis at home—Have you ever gone to the beach and made a sand castle or sculpture?  Did you take a beach pail and shovel?  Did you get just enough water to create your design?  When you are at a beach, take a bit of the sand.  At home, create an oasis diorama.  Create the small island using shoeboxes, paper plates, or any other fun finds at home.  Place a bit of the sand in the diorama.  Create a name for the oasis and write a few sentences on the box, notecard, etc. of why you picked the name and what significance it has for you this summer.
  • Buried Treasure Graphic Mystery—In the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s, there were pirates around the areas of present-day New York City, Long Island and around the Hudson River. It is said, that Captain Kidd’s treasure chest was buried on Gardiner’s Island off the coast of Long Island in Suffolk County.  In The East Hampton Library collection, there is a piece of the gold cloth given to Mrs. Gardiner by Captain Kidd.           You may wish to research Captain Kidd’s adventures on or near Long Island.  Create a graphic mystery of the buried treasure of Captain Kidd.  You may wish to create a map within the graphic mystery of where Captain Kidd’s treasure chest was buried on Gardiner’s Island.
  • Fishbowl Box –Get a box and decorate it. Find colorful pieces of paper or decorate the paper and decorate the box.  Place in the “fishbowl,” possibilities of what you would like to do over the summer, books to read, and summer fun activities you would like to try on the slips of paper.  Right before you start school, look at the slips of paper and see how many possibilities you accomplished.  If you did not start some of the possibilities, it is okay.  Use the fishbowl box and create more possibilities for the school year.
  • Lake Sturgeon of NYS–Some species in New York State have become endangered or threatened.  One is the Lake Sturgeon.  The Lake Sturgeon is predominantly in the areas of the St. Lawrence River, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, and Cayuga Lake.  Research the reasons why this is happening to the lake sturgeon in New York State. Create a brochure to use in the areas of New York State of the possibilities to help keep the lake sturgeon alive and how they help their habitat.
  • Message in the Bottle — Message in the Bottle — People from the past used to place messages in the bottle and sent them to sail in the sea.  Create a message in a recycled bottle and place the possibilities of your future in it.  Place a timeline on the bottle.  Each year add to the timeline on the bottle and date the possibility accomplished.
  • Hudson River Landscapes — The Hudson River is one of the most amazing rivers in New York State.  Create a Hudson River Landscape in honor of the artistic movement; the Hudson River School.   Use different possibilities to illustrate the landscape:  mixed media, collage, pastels, paints, etc.  You may wish to illustrate a certain area of the river with its natural surroundings.
  • New York State water mosaic—Make a mosaic out of tissue paper of your favorite New York State water area.  Use colorful tissue paper and a piece of cardboard to create the waterscape.  You can add text, illustration or other form of design to the creation.

Written by Marisa Gitto 

New York State Library

Summer Reading at New York Libraries is funded in part through the Federal Library Services and Technology Act, with funds awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. The New York State Library is a program of the Office of Cultural Education in the New York State Education Department.