Summer reading program motivates families to keep minds active over summer break

Special to the Maryland Independent

Whether it’s on the couch, in the library or by the pool, Charles County Public Library is challenging children and adults to read more this summer and be rewarded for it.

“Build a Better World” is this year’s theme of the library’s summer reading challenge. The program began June 1 and ends Aug. 26. Children and adults log their reading minutes and participate in activities online in order to win prizes.

“It is very beneficial to kids to participate in the Summer Reading Program because it helps combat the ‘summer slide,’ helping kids to keep up on the skills they learned the previous school year so that they are ready to continue learning when they return to school,” Sarah Anderson, children’s librarian, Potomac Branch, said.

“It also helps encourage a lifelong love of reading and can really help draw in reluctant readers.”

Customers can register themselves and their children online at Once registered, adults and children can start reading and participating online.

Participants can earn badges by logging minutes spent reading, writing reviews of books they have read and completing challenges. For every 15 badges, participants earn one entry into the grand prize drawing for a Kindle Fire HD tablet and one entry into the regular prize drawings at their local library branch, which includes prizes such as tickets to the Maryland Science Center, LEGO kits and Amazon gift cards, Anderson said.

Melinda Jackowski of La Plata said her two daughters Emma, 8, and Isabelle, 5, regularly participate in the summer reading program.

“Emma actually won two prizes for doing her reading one year, so she liked that,” Jackowski said. “The prizes are a good motivation for them to read.”

Jackowski said her family has been participating in the program for several years. She likes that the program offers free events during the summer and that it is a fun learning experience for her children.

This is the Charles County Public Library’s 15th year putting on the summer reading challenge; however, it is the first year they are using Beanstack, an online site that lets “library customers log their reading, write reviews, create wish lists of what they want to read in the future, read peer reviews and participate in challenges,” Sarah Guy, program coordinator, said.

The Beanstack site allows librarians to create customized challenges that appeal to their customers, Guy said.

“For example, at the requests of some of the schools in Charles County, we have challenges that encourage kids to learn more about their school,” she said. “[The challenges ask questions like:] What does Piccowaxen mean? Who was Milton Somers? Who was General Smallwood?”

The Beanstack site is available all year long, but there are more activities and challenges to participate in when children are out of school during the summer.

“We’ve had great feedback from our customers and staff about how easy Beanstack is to use, so we’ll be using the site for at least the next couple years,” Guy said.

“This year we’re testing Beanstack’s new Photo Review option, which has been a lot of fun. We’ve had customers do the Origami Challenge and submit photos of what they’ve created,” she said.

“We’ve had customers try a new recipe and show us photos of tasty looking cookies and cakes.”

“The kids love all of the fun and engaging events we have all summer long and that they can win lots of cool prizes,” Anderson said. “The parents love that we have lots of fun and educational events mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends to accommodate different schedules and that it is super easy to participate.”

“It makes a great family activity for the summer,” Anderson said.