Summer reading programs promote community engagement

Summer reading programs at Edinburgh, Johnson County and Greenwood public libraries have all begun welcoming waves of children and adults, as in-person activities return in full force for the first summer since 2019.

At the Greenwood Public Library, what was previously termed the Summer Reading program is now called the Summer Challenge. The new name reflects library officials’ efforts to get more people involved in community activities in addition to meeting their reading goals, said Emily Ellis, the library’s assistant director.

The theme of the challenge is “Once Upon a Fairytale” and includes library activities, such as crafts, making crowns and exploring fairy tales. Outdoors, participants in the Summer Challenge are encouraged to explore Greenwood’s parks and trails. The library will also hold a showing of Looney Tunes in Old City Park July 1, Ellis said.

“In previous years, it was just reading, but this year we decided to make that shift. It encourages people to explore the parks in Greenwood, there’s a Great Arts Quest Aspire (Johnson County) is putting on in June and there are weekly challenges for patrons,” she said. “The highest priority is reading, and you get points for reading every day and finishing books, points towards raffle tickets. If someone just wants to read, people in the community who are avid readers can complete the program just by reading, but we hope to get people back in the building. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know us again in our first real summer we’re having since 2019.”

The Summer Challenge, which began May 16, continues through July 31 and has welcomed 874 readers as of Thursday, Ellis said.

The Johnson County Public Library’s Explore Summer program, which has tallied about 650,000 minutes of accumulated reading as of Thursday, has a goal of 4 million minutes read when the program wraps up July 31. The library has already surpassed its goal of 4,000 registrants, programming manager Kelly Staten said in an email.

As with the Greenwood Public Library, Johnson County Public Library participants are taking part in the Great Arts Quest. Along with logging at least an hour of reading each week with the Beanstack app, or a total of 10 hours before the program’s end for a prize, Explore Summer activities include making a sidewalk chalk mural, acting out a book or movie scene, writing a letter to a librarian and posting a picture of a pet to the library’s Facebook page, among other activities, according to the library’s Explore Summer flier.

During weeks readers log three learning activities, they are entered to win gift cards from Chicago’s Pizza, Regal Cinemas, 10 Pins and Coffeehouse Five, as well as other local businesses. For someone who completes 10 hours of reading, the library will also give away a grand prize of one night at the Bottleworks Hotel in Indianapolis, along with a gas gift card and gift cards to The Garage Food Hall, Living Room Theatres and Pins Mechanical Company, according to the flier.

The program will encourage students to read and learn even when school is out, Lisa Lintner, director of the Johnson County Public Library, said in an email.

“The Explore Summer learning program is open to residents of all ages and especially designed to encourage students to read and engage in learning activities during out-of-school time to help maintain their reading levels and education skills,” she said. “Programs like this help students return to school ready to begin a new school year strong.”

Edinburgh readers can take part in their library’s summer reading program, which started June 6, until July 9, and earn a chance at some prizes along the way. Next week, for example, the library is giving out free passes to the local pool, said Chris Hoffman, director of the Edinburgh Public Library.

If readers reach a certain benchmark, they’ll be invited to a pool and pizza party July 19, where they will be entered for grand prizes, he said.

“It’s open to everyone. Our goal is 20 books for everyone by July 9,” Hoffman said. “You can read as many as you like, but it takes 20 to get invited to the pool party. We have several grand prizes, including family passes to the Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo and sporting event tickets.”

The summer reading program has already attracted about 100 readers in its first week, and along with reading, will also include a magic show and outdoor water show this summer, he said.

“I think, more than anything, it’s a good way to keep kids involved academically throughout the summer when they’re not involved in school,” Hoffman said. “It’s a good way for parents and kids to connect and have a way to do an activity together.”