By Lauren Valencia
Once upon a time, reading in the summer wasn't considered cool. Not any more. 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. Get cracking!
Seattle Public Library: SPL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair with the theme of its Summer Reading Program, "Read Your Way Into the Future!"
The rules are simple. If kids read ten books, they get a free paperback of their choice. The fun part for kids (and adults) is tracking their reads, either online or on a paper reading log. Online, kids can create their own avatar and collect online badges for each book. Younger children will love earning stickers for their reading logs.
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, 2012). Speed readers who finish their ten books by August 1 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, from Thistle Theatre’s reimagining of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, singalongs with Caspar Babypants, and hands-on activities. We’ll cover them on the ParentMap calendar; also check the events calendar for dates and locations.
King County: KCLS's summer reading program — a spinoff of Washington County Libraries’ Dream Big READ! program — tracks minutes instead of books. Just sign up online and start counting. The goal for school-aged kids is 500 minutes of reading, while preschoolers can use an activity sheet to color in 15 shapes. The prize for each group is glow-in-the-dark mini stars. If kids read 1000 minutes or finish 30 shapes, they earn LED flashing glasses. If they meet their big goal by August 31, school-aged kids can enter in a drawing to win a new netbook, while preschoolers can enter to win a one-year family membership to KidsQuest Museum or a Family Fun Pack to the Woodland Park Zoo.
King County Libraries also offer activities and workshops all summer long, including Dancing Pajamas Concert with Nancy Stewart, movies at the library, and a variety of kindiependent concerts.
Tacoma Public Library: Tacoma is offering three "summer reading clubs" this summer, which started on June 16 and end on August 11. Kids up to fifth grade can participate in the Dream Big READ! club, with a goal or reading ten books (or having ten books read to you). Everyone completing the club receives tickets to a summer reading bash at the Point Defiance Zoo on August 18; two free games of bowling; and a couple of other nifty prizes. Kids who complete ten books are also entered to win other prizes, such as a new laptop computer.
Teens can join the "Own the Night" club; each book read earns them a free game of bowling; ten books gets them tickets to the zoo event and other prizes. And adults, take heed: They also have a program just for you.
Pierce County: Participants in Pierce County's summer reading program, which starts Saturday, June 23, can pick up a reading poster at their local library to start tracking their reading and earning prizes. Wee readers 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 iPod Touch. 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.
Thurston County/Timberland Regional Library: Kids can pick up their reading kits and sign up for the summer reading program at their local Timberland Library, or sign up online. Encouraging reading together, Timberland libraries give points to kids reading to and with friends and family. This handy summer booklist can help kids navigate the shelves. Middle school and teen readers can participate in the “Own The Night” program, with its own two booklists for middle school students and teens . Search summer events for kids here.
Snohomish: Kids who sign up for Snohomish County's program can use a Dream Journal to keep track of their reading time. The goal is 1,000 minutes to win a free book. In addition, you can enter a drawing to win either a poster of you and your favorite book, plus a cookie the size of your head; or a visit from the Bookmobile. As a bonus, you can earn an extra chance in the drawing for every additional 100 minutes of reading. Sno-Isle Libraries also offer a range of engaging summer activities, with themes ranging from science to storytelling to the circus.
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