The Auburn Public Library's summer reading program kicks off this week and challenges children, teens and adults to read 20 hours during the summer months.
The Summer Learning Challenge provides incentives for reading — like a free T-shirt and a chance to win grand prizes — but the real gain is intellectual, said Ashley Brown, engagement and outreach librarian.
"Literacy is a skill, and it's a skill you have to practice," she said. "What research indicates about students who don't read during the summer is that if they don't practice that skill, by the time they reach sixth grade, they can be two grade levels behind in literacy. So, we really just want to make sure that we're encouraging and setting a good example for our community to really encourage people to practice those skills."
The SLC began Wednesday, but it's not too late to sign up and begin logging hours. Library staff suggest participants set a goal to read 20 minutes each day to steadily work toward reaching 20 hours at the end of the summer months, but readers can also take it at their own pace.
Those who reach the goal of 20 hours by Aug. 1 will receive a SLC T-shirt and be entered to win a prize in their age group. Children aged 5 and younger will be eligible to win a LeapPad; those 6 to 12 years old could win a drone; and participants ages 13 and older can enter to win a Polaroid Snap gift set.
All who register to participate in the SLC can pick up a goodie bag at the library. To sign up, go to the library or download the Beanstack app on a smartphone or tablet, then enter the SLC program within the app.
The app is a new amenity to this year's challenge, one that Brown hopes will make participating easier.
"We're really excited this year," she said. "We hope to add more people, and we hope having the app is more convenient for people this year.
"It has grown each year just a little bit. We haven't had big growth, but we're hoping we can."
Last year, about 1,400 people participated. This will be the third year that adults can also participate and set an example for the younger members of their family.
"One of the things that kids need to really encourage them to read is an adult role model in their life who reads," Brown said, adding that seeing an adult enjoying reading means more to children than being read to by an adult.
And she insists that everyone can enjoy reading.
"For most people, it's not that they don't like reading, it's that they have not found a book they like," she said. "If they come to the library we will work and work until they find the book they really love."
Though readers can start logging hours this week, the library will officially kick off the SLC on June 4 with an event that will include games, crafts, refreshments, a book sale, face painting and more. The event will be hosted inside the library from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 4, and families can come and go during that day.
As the SLC continues, movie showings and special guests will be hosted by the library on Mondays and Tuesdays in June. To find a schedule of these events, visit auburnalabama.org/library.