Kids flock to EPL’s summer games

Just as Northwestern students placed their books back on the shelves to collect dust during the summer, thousands of young Evanston readers embarked on a summer full of reading with the encouragement of the Evanston Public Library’s summer reading game.

The reading game has been a hallmark of the Evanston Public Library and other local libraries’ summer programming for years. As a reading incentive program, this summer’s theme, “Catch the Reading Bug,” is designed to reward young Evanston residents for the time they spend reading during the summer.

“The way we spin it is that they read books they enjoy about subjects they like,” said Children’s Librarian Brian Wilson. “Graphic novels, comics, newspapers, books on tape, being read to; even reading e-mail counts.”

Participants receive bookmarks and sheets on which to record their progress. Once a week, participants come to the library and show one of the librarians their reading achievements. Participants who meet the minimum time of twenty minutes can win weekly prizes that include treats donated by local businesses such as Steak n Shake, Ben & Jerry’s and Great Harvest Bread Co. Those who read for nine hours or more by the end of the summer receive a paperback book of their choice.

All three branches of the Evanston Public Library take part in the summer reading game. This year there are about 1,000 registrants at the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., and about 500 registrants between the smaller North and South Branches, 2026 Central Ave. Given the abundance of participants thus far, Wilson believes that this is the biggest year yet. He attributes the success of the game to the atmosphere it engenders. “Kids during the school year are tense, this is loose,” Wilson said. “They’re enjoying it, excited to reach their goals. The prizes don’t even end up mattering a lot of the time.”

Although he believes that the best part of the game is indeed “the prizes,” eight-year-old Adam Geibel would recommend the program to his friends for another reason. “You can read in the summer and get your brain working for the coming school year,” he said. Geibel, a third grader at Lincolnwood Elementary School whose favorite book is “It’s Halloween, You ‘Fraidy Mouse!” by Geronimo Stilton, has read four hours and forty minutes so far this summer.

The library has a summer reading program tailored for its teen population as well. Based out of the “Loft” on the Main Library’s third floor and under the supervision of Young Adult Librarian Christie Chandler-Stahl, the teen summer reading game currently has a comparatively modest registration of about eighty-five participants.

“A lot of teens have outgrown reading games, but we want to promote literacy in any way we can,” Chandler-Stahl said. “This is just a small complement of other programming like book discussions and our theatre group. At this age range, we are interested in promoting reading year round.”

The teen reading game requires its participants to read and submit reviews of six books during the summer. Those who complete six reviews are entered to win a video camera.

In an attempt to spur creativity, participants can submit their reviews in one of five ways: videographically (using cameras borrowed from “the Loft”), photographically (using Flickr.com), by writing a review online, on paper or with an in-person discussion with library staff.

“I think it is really neat for teens in Evanston to read each others’ reviews so there is a sort of teen reading community with them recommending books to each other,” Chandler-Stahl said.

Both the youth and teen reading games conclude on August 2.

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