GREENFIELD — On May 30, the Hancock County Public Library kicks off its summer reading program with an attempt at setting a world record for the number of people balancing books on their heads all at the same time. The current record is 998, and the library has hopes of beating that number. The kick-off event will take place at 10 a.m. on the Greenfield-Central High School football field, 810 N. Broadway.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that breaking a world record is as simple as standing with a book on your head. The books must be of a certain size: between 9-by-5.9 inches and 12.2-by-9 inches. Participants may bring a qualifying book from home or check out a book from the library.

And as if balancing the book weren’t enough, participants must be able to walk 5½ yards without touching the books on their heads. If the book falls off, the participant stops where the book fell, replaces the book and continues walking.

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The whole event is planned to kick off “Every Hero Has a Story,” the kids summer reading club theme.

Children’s librarian Catherine Riley explained this year’s theme choice.

“Everyone can be a hero who helps us break the record,” Riley said, “but in addition to that, we’re asking everyone who participates to be a community hero by donating a book, so we can get books into the hands of children who need them.”

The Hancock County Public Library summer reading club for children dates back at least 50 years, according to Riley, with teen and adult clubs added in 1998.

The main objective of a summer reading program, Riley said, is to prevent “summer slide.”

“It keeps the kids reading over the summer so that they go back to school with a reading level as high, if not higher, than they had when they left school in May,” she said.

As far as the adult program, Riley stresses the importance of parents modeling reading for their children, who might follow their habits.

Parents can register their children online at or at the library.

Finished books can be logged on the library website. When seven books have been logged on the website, the child receives a free book. For each book after the initial seven, kids can pick a prize every two weeks for each book read and put an entry into a drawing for state fair tickets, a new bicycle or a tablet.

The guidelines for “Unmask,” the teen club, are a bit different. Teens are required to read five books but have the added advantage of being able to count books they’ve read aloud to other children, usually younger brothers and sisters.

Every 10 children’s books count as one teen book, and teens can simply type “10 children’s books” into the entry log field. Grand prizes for teens are a $100 Walmart gift card, an iPad mini, an X-Rocker wireless gaming chair and Sky Zone passes.

The teens have another teen-specific program to help them reach their reading goal. During “Teens Read the Way,” Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. starting June 10, teens can go to the children’s room and volunteer to read to a child for an hour each week. The final session, on July 15, ends with an ice cream party for the readers and their reading buddies.

As with the children’s and teens’ reading programs, adults are encouraged to read and log the books they’ve read online at Adults may also count books they’ve read to their children. There are prizes for adults, also, for reaching their reading goals.

Registration for the reading program can be done online at or at the library. Both the Greenfield and the Sugar Creek branches host reading clubs each summer.

The library offers not only a summer reading program, but an entire slate of activities and events for kids, teens and adults, many of them with an underlying hero theme.

Riley credits the combined brain power of her fellow librarians in helping to come up with the myriad of activities planned for the summer.

“We try to create programs that appeal to a wide range of kids,” Riley said.

Greenfield mother of five, Shannon Fitzgerald, participates with her children, ages 3 to 14.

“They would read anyway,” says Fitzgerald, “but the program makes it more exciting.”

She added that the four oldest all take turns reading to her youngest, Victoria, who is 3.

Twelve-year-old Jack Sisco participated in last year’s reading club and plans to do so again this summer.

“Reading programs are good,” Sisco said, “because it gets kids away from screens.”

The library is still looking for participants for the world record attempt. Anyone interested can call 317-462-5141, ext. 238, to register.

The reading program runs through Aug. 1.

At a glance

“Kids love it when their parents sign up, too.”—children’s librarian Catherine Riley

Author photo
Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or