Pages for Prizes: Summer Reading Programs in Puget Sound
Once upon a time, reading in the summer wasn't considered cool. Not anymore. With our bookish population and phenomenal libraries, tearing through books for prizes is as much a part of the Puget Sound summer experience for kids as spray parks and berry picking.
Libraries also offer many fantastic free events and programs throughout the summer, to keep kids (and adults) book-smart. Here's our roundup of local summer programs. Many have started already.
Seattle Public Library
The library kicked off its summer reading program by breaking the world record for the longest domino chain of, what else, books! (Watch the video to see it in action)! Appropriately titled “Expand Your Horizons,” this year’s summer reading program at SPL encourages children to discover new paths.
Reading logs can be picked up at your local branch library, along with a Reading Ranger button and coupons for prizes. The rules are simple. After reading five books, kids win a Reading Ranger window cling. If kids read ten books, they get a free paperback of their choice.
The fun part for kids (and adults) is tracking their reads, redeeming their prize coupons, and, of course, expanding their horizons with each new book.
There are other nice incentives for reaching the goal, including a free pass to the Burke Museum (it can be used between July 1 and Oct. 31, 2013).
Speed readers who finish their ten books by August 5 can enter their name into a drawing for the Breakfast of Champions at the Space Needle. In addition to regular story time offerings, SPL has tons of free programs planned all summer long, including African drumming workshops, songs and stories by local kindie band The Harmonica Pocket, as well as hands-on science and movement activities.
King County Library System
KCLS's summer reading program — a spinoff of Washington County Libraries’ Dig Into Reading program — tracks minutes instead of books. Just sign up online, print out a reading log, and start counting. The goal for school-aged kids is 1,000 minutes of reading, while preschoolers can use an activity sheet to color in 20 books. Halfway prizes, a packet of Northwest seeds, are available July 1 for 500 minutes of reading for elementary schoolers, or 10 books for preschoolers.
If kids read 1,000 minutes or finish 20 books, they earn a KCLS Reader Bag, available August 1. If they meet their big goal by August 31, school-aged kids can enter in a drawing to win a Sony Reader, while preschoolers can enter to win a set of five passes to the Woodland Park Zoo or a stack of books, and be entered to win one of three Family Memberships to KidsQuest Children's Museum.
King County Libraries also offer activities and workshops all summer long, including I Dig Dinosaurs with Nancy Stewart, movies at the library and a variety of concerts.
Tacoma Public Library
Tacoma is offering three "summer reading clubs" this summer, which start on June 15 and end on August 10. Kids up to fifth grade can participate in the Dig Into Reading club and read and report on ten books (or have ten books read to you). Everyone completing the club receives two tickets to a summer reading bash at the Point Defiance Zoo on August 17; two free games of bowling at Narrows Plaza Bowl; and a tote bag. Kids who complete ten books are also entered into weekly raffles, and kids who complete 20 books are entered into a drawing to win one of two iPads.
Teens can join the "Beneath the Surface" club; read and write a review of five books. After meeting the five-book goal, teens win ear “worm” buds, two free games of bowling, and two tickets to the reading bash on August 17, and are entered into weekly raffles. Ten book reviews get teens entered into the iPad drawing. And adults, take heed: They also have a program just for you called “Groundbreaking Reads.”
Pierce County Libraries
To participate in Pierce County's summer reading program, which runs June 22–Sept.1, kids pick up a reading poster at their local library to start tracking their reading and earning prizes. Wee Readers (ages three and under) earn points for each reading experience and library visit, while older kids count 20-minute blocks of reading. All earn a series of prizes and chances to enter drawings, the grand prize being an iPad. The Teen Summer Challenge is all online (website to be launched soon) and focuses on interaction through “gamification” and sharing among participants.
A sure-to-be-welcomed perk for all ages this year is “Read Down Your Fines,” an incentive program to reduce library fines by $5 for matching reading goals. Pierce County libraries also have a full schedule of summer events, including science exploration and singing. For a schedule of events in West Pierce County, check here ; for East Pierce County's events, check here .
Kids who sign up for Sno-Isle Libaries' program can pick up or print out a field guide to keep track of their reading time. The goal is to read 1,000 minutes or ten books to win a free book and be entered into a drawing to win a free bike. As a bonus, you can earn an extra chance in the drawing for every additional 1,000 minutes of reading or ten books read. Sno-Isle Libraries also offer a range of engaging summer activities, with themes ranging from dinosaurs to magic.
Note: Thurston County is just posting their program this week; stay tuned!
About the author: Lauren Valencia is a former Seattle pre-K teacher and a freelance writer.
Photo credits: Thanks to our wonderful readers for their photo submissions of their kids reading. From top: Elizabeth, age 3, in one of her favorite reading cubbies; Sami at Couth Buzzard, his favorite Seattle bookstore; and Jude of Mountlake Terrace, enraptured with 'Peek-a-Who' by Nina Laden.
This article was originally written in 2012 and updated for 2013.