Summer reading program: On your mark, get set, read!

summer reading program, Arizona, libraries
Summer is when Maricopa County libraries can really strut their stuff.

Summer is to libraries as the Christmas shopping season is to retailers. It’s the whole enchilada, the holy bagumba; it’s when the pedal meets the metal, where the rubber meets the road … well, you get the idea.

Summer is a big deal. Summer is when libraries can really show their stuff, because summer means summer reading program time. And wow, does the Maricopa County Library District have a lollapalooza in store.

So, let the games begin! Wednesday, June 1 is the kickoff of the sports-themed “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!”—the 2016 Maricopa County Reads online summer reading program. Here are a few things you should know about it:

It’s huge. All 62 public libraries in the county are participating this year. Last year, almost 80,000 readers did the program, and the goal is much higher this year.

It’s inclusive. The program is intended for everyone, birth through adulthood. You can read, be read to, or read aloud to receive program credit and earn rewards.

It’s customized. Every participating library system has put its own stamp on the program, offering tiny tweaks, upgrades and a wide variety of rewards. In addition, all the branches in all the systems each have their own related in-house special events programming, covering just about any fun and interesting thing you can think of. Check the libraries’ event and calendar web listings for details.

It has lofty ambitions. The program wants to “reinforce the literacy skills and positive reading habits of all (Maricopa County) residents during the summer months.” Specifically, it wants to make reading fun by using an interactive online game platform that motivates readers with time tracking, personalized avatars, special challenges, badges and a tiered reward system with some pretty impressive prizes. Also, it aims to help to build home libraries with free books; encourage participants to develop lifelong reading habits by reading 20 minutes per day, every day; and lure readers out into the community to experience local art, science and cultural venues that are program partners, using extra game incentives, such as finding secret codes hidden at the sites.

Summer reading program, Arizona, libraries
Summer reading programs offer big rewards.

It’s easy and rewarding. You can sign up now online or at your local library. Then just read and record. Earn points and redeem them for prizes. Some are small, some large, some quite amazing. See your local library for specifics.

“On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” sounds like a blast—the perfect thing for hot, bored school escapees and their frazzled families. So visit your very cool library today and often. Because incentives influence behavior, winning online games and prizes can motivate today’s tech-savvy participants to devote 20 minutes a day (and hopefully, much more!) to reading.

And don’t forget that summer reading can deliver much richer, intangible prizes. Discover lazy, random book browsing unencumbered by heavy backpacks and homework pressures; enjoy off-the-cuff conversations with librarians who have the time, knowledge and desire to help you pursue your interests and passions. Fall in love with that special book, the one that understands you, the one that sets your imagination on fire. Follow the road less traveled—oh, the places you’ll go!

Become a lifelong reader. Those are the real rewards.