Summer reading programs have come a long way, baby.Back in the day, those who read a certain number of minutes would keep a log, bring it to the library, and receive a bookmark or other small prize.
Depending on the library, prizes may include gift cards, meal certificates, book lights, T-shirts and a free swim pass; and grand prizes include premier memberships to OMSI, the Oregon Zoo or Portland Children’s Museum and a $300 voucher to the Great Wolf Lodge.
In Camas, the top 10 kids who read for the most time receive a certificate and a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble. There will also be an end-of-summer raffle for a free bike, helmet and lock.
Both the Camas and Washougal libraries also include free weekly activities as a part of the program.
Last Wednesday was standing-room only at the Washougal Community Library, where 174 people came to see Creature Feature, an up-close encounter with creatures from around the world, including snakes, lizards and other animals. Children are allowed to see, hear and touch the animals.
Librarian Chris Hughey described the turnout as “terrific.”
“It’s just wonderful to have these people involved and kids reading,” she said. “The kids get so excited.”
So far, there are 540 children and 77 teens signed up. At the end of last year’s summer program, there were 510 children and 77 teens.
“It’s great to see so many high school kids who love to read,” Hughey said. “The younger kids get so excited about coming in and getting the prizes. They feel a real sense of accomplishment.”
Here’s how the summer reading program works: Children ages 0 to 18 may participate through mid-August by signing up at their local library, where they will be given a starter kit. Kids may also register online. After an account is created, they log reading minutes and claim prizes.
“I like that there is something for the whole family,” Hughey said. “Every year, the program is improved a little bit. Older kids get credit for reading time, and the younger kids for being read to.”
“It’s just great for the kids. It spurs their imagination and learning during the long breaks between school,” said parent Milly Johnson after the recent Creature Feature event at the Washougal library.
“And the programs they put on are so hands on. It’s very informative. He really talks at the kids’ level,” added Wendy Stump.
“I get to win something,” Gavin, 4, said, when asked what he enjoyed most about the summer reading program. “I like tornado books.”
“We get to find out new books,” Gabe, 6. said. “I like new books. Now that this guy (Steve Lattanzi from Creature Feature) mentioned the jungle, I want jungle books.”
“I like how they’re really funny,” explained Abigail McBride, 7. “They talk about what they say and where they’re going.”
Jacob Barnett, 10, isn’t in it for the prizes.
“I like to read and stuff,” he said. His favorite series is, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
At the Camas Public Library, 2,200 children, 393 teenagers and 181 adults have signed up for summer reading.
“These are the highest numbers we’ve ever had,” children’s librarian Ellen Good said.
When asked why the high turnout, Good credits communication with the local schools and a grant from the Camas-Washougal Community Chest, which enabled the library to provide better prizes for summer reading.
“Some of the kids really like the prizes,” she said. “It is a big focus. A lot read during the summer anyway and figure they may as well get credit. Either way, it helps them be part of a community of readers. Seeing kids who have never done it before get excited about it is the best part.”
The Camas library is unique in the fact that it also has an adult summer reading program.
“We had lots of adults asking for it,” Good said. “They read books, write reviews and there’s a raffle every week. It makes it so that we can get the whole family involved. No one is excluded.”
Laura McBride-Felter of Camas has have been involved with the program since 2006, when her oldest child was 4. Now, all four of her kids participate.
“We have the continuity of reading move seamlessly into the summer,” she said. “The kids are so motivated by the prizes, they are forming reading groups in the morning and afternoon and reading to each other. It’s really exciting for them.”
Cammie Reed, a school librarian, has both of her children participating in the summer program.
“It’s great motivation to keep them reading,” she said.
Faith, 6, enjoys the prizes and Spencer, 9, just loves to read.
Shannon Wells-Moran, 14, said he likes the summer reading program because it motivates him to do something other than sit in front of the computer playing video games. The prizes help with motivation and weekly movies at the library are fun. But what he enjoys most of all?“I think I just like to read,” he said.