July 14, 2012
Think fast-food coupon prizes, T-shirts and tote bags can’t woo your children and sometimes even adults into the library this summer?
It certainly has for my second-grade son and his siblings, whose list of reasons for gobbling down as many books as they can is partly related to their goals of earning a beloved french fry, frozen treat, T-shirt or other prize.
I can’t argue with them. Those prizes were part of my incentive to cuddle up with a good read during the ’80s when I dived into Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books each summer.
When I asked a librarian recently for more details about their adult reading program, she pointed to a green construction-paper covered box on top of her desk. For every book I read, she told me, I’m eligible for a grand prize drawing in August. I immediately headed for the fiction section and pulled up a book by my favorite suspense novel writer, Mary Higgins Clark. I’m determined to rise to the challenge.
Many area libraries continue to host summer reading programs through August, dishing out edible and user-friendly prizes for children, teens and adult readers. Children can earn prizes for reading five to 10 books and adults can read one or more books to earn prizes.
Summer reading programs are important ones, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which through an independent study found that the amount of reading done outside of school is related to gains in reading achievement. Children also engage in more independent reading when they have greater access to books, and libraries play a crucial role for families, the study found.
Our family’s summer reading competition is a sure bet. In between softball games, swim lessons and the Disney channel, it’s the summer reads in the library where they appear most relaxed reading out-loud to one another, swapping books or giggling together through the pages of riddle books and “Captain Underpants.”
They don’t consider libraries to be quiet, boring places either. They’ve been entertained with Harvey the Rabbit’s traveling puppet show, outdoor treasure hunts, crafts and games, and indoor book-reading beach parties this summer and last.
At the end of these activities, they head for the book aisles.
I steered my 10-year-old daughter toward another of my childhood favorites, including the Trixie Belden girl detective series. She at first frowned at the old, worn, outdated cover of a pencil-drawn character I presented her with, and shook her head “no.” Her initial reaction didn’t surprise me, though she did an about-face when I pulled out the updated, modernized Trixie Belden cover complete with colorful graphics.
That led me to direct her to my other favorite childhood series, “The Nancy Drew Mysteries” and “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle,“ the tiny lady married to a pirate who provided parents with cures for their children’s bad habits.
What a trip down memory lane. I can remember spending hours at a time in the library during my summer breaks, checking out dozens of books, competing with other cousins to see who could read the most.
Sure, there were other activities to do in the summer, but none beat sitting down with a good book and unlocking other worlds we might not ordinarily visit.
And, oh yes, the prizes are pretty important too. I hope to earn one of those cool library tote bags, a food treat coupon or some other prize in August, just as I had in my childhood years.
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance reporter. She can be reached at chante firstname.lastname@example.org.