GREENFIELD — When Barbara Roark thinks of the winter reading club, she envisions families settling in, with books and hot chocolate, to read together on the couch or in front of the fireplace.
As assistant director at the Hancock County Public Library, Roark’s vision is the idea behind “Reading is Sweet,” the library’s winter reading club, which kicks off Feb. 1.
With an easy-to-achieve goal of reading aloud to each other for just one hour a week, families have an opportunity for four levels of prizes. Complete one hour of family reading, and participating children will receive an elephant squirter or bubbles (for the younger children); a second hour of reading is rewarded with a coupon good for one donut at the Sweet Shop on West Main Street; for a third hour of reading, the family receives a hardback book (“If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” by Laura Numeroff or the poetry book “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein); for the fourth hour completed, the family earns a fabric book bag.
Registration is easy, Roark said. It can be done in person at the library or through the library website at hcplibrary.org. The website is also where progress can be tracked, and books can be logged.
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But the program isn’t just for young children and families. The library also wants to encourage reading among teens. For every book or magazine read, the 13-to-19-year-olds can fill out an entry form and drop it in the prize entry box through 9 p.m. Feb. 28. Starting Feb. 5, weekly prize drawings will take place with giveaways of $5 or $10 gift cards to Starbucks, The Mug, Dairy Queen or Pop Indy. In addition to slips for books and magazines, Entry slips will also be given out to teens attending teen programs at the library.
On March 1, four grand prizes will be handed out to teens. One prize package, the “Anime Fun-Pack,” includes a three-month subscription to Crunchyroll, gift cards to Hometown Comics and a copy of “My Hero Academia, vol. 9,” a comic series. The “All-Star” pack features an indoor basketball hoop and a gift card to McCleery’s Sporting Goods. A lunchbox filled with candy and gift certificates to Jack’s Donuts and Greenfield Chocolates make up the “Sweet Stash” pack. A gift card to Tiffany’s Spa and Salon and a set of bath bombs are included in the “Treat Yo’self” pack.
Adults taking part are eligible to win gift cards at Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, Starbucks or Walmart.
Even the staff is participating in the winter reading club, Roark said.
“We don’t usually have much trouble getting the staff to read, but a gift card is a nice incentive,” she laughed.
Ethan Michael, a freshman at Greenfield-Central High School, sat in the quiet section of the library reading a graphic novel. His eyes lit up when he heard about the prize packages being offered for participation in the winter reading club. Ethan’s love of books includes adventure novels and plotlines that rely on science rather than the supernatural.
“I’ll definitely try it out,” he said. “Movies energize your eyes, but books energize your brain.”
Ethan’s sister, Esther, 16, said she loves reading and the prizes give her an extra incentive.
She had her eye on the spa package.
“I like girly stuff,” she laughed.
The library staff plans to kick off the program for the adults on Feb. 1 at the Beck & Brickley musical performance at 7 p.m. in the community room.
“We’re going to give it a push at that event,” Roark said. “We want to make sure everyone knows about it.”
The staff plans to highlight the program for families at 10 a.m. Feb. 10 when magician C.R. Ryan pays a visit to the library. Ryan and his three sons will share their love of books, in particular a magic book from Ryan’s childhood library that gave him his start as a magician.
Roark sees the annual winter program as a way to gear up for the summer reading program. The summer program had approximately 3,200 participants. Last year’s winter program participation topped out at around 800, she said, but it’s increasing every year.
“People should be reading all year long, obviously, said Roark, “but this puts the emphasis on it.”
Roark believes that structuring a reading program around families reading aloud to each strengthens reading skills and gives young readers confidence.
“It helps create a bond,” Roark said. “It makes reading an event people look forward to.”
To participate in “Reading is Sweet,” the winter reading program at the library, register at hcplibrary.org. The program runs the month of February.