The Huntley Area Public Library saw a massive increase in total checkouts last week as children, teens, and adults alike signed up for the summer reading program that the library has been running for more than 12 years.
“We’ve seen increases all across the board,” said Doug Cataldo, the library’s marketing specialist. “Our checkouts have been astronomical of late.”
According to Cataldo, the generosity of the community makes the program possible every year and aids in the library’s goal to encourage reading for all age groups.
“There’s always something going on here to try and influence children to read,” he said.
Supportive donations from the Friends of the Library Foundation, grants from local businesses, and the helpfulness of teen volunteers all played an important role June 9-10 when the library began registration for summer reading. Although the poor weather conditions may have dampened the crowd, Cataldo says the two-day opening was still successful.
“We had hoped to do some things outside but the weather did not cooperate,” said librarian Rosie Lukas.
The library always expects a significant rise in circulation every summer: an average two-day checkout total in May was 3,234, and the checkout total for June 9-10 was 6,066 – nearly double. As of June 10, 1,338 people already signed up for the reading program, which runs until Aug. 6. The library has high hopes for the overall number of signups this summer.
“We’re hoping to break 4,000 this year,” said Leigh Ann Porsch, communications development coordinator for the library.
Achieving this goal could not be made possible without the assistance of the teen volunteers in the children’s reading program Reading is Sweet, where two-thirds of signups have been coming from, according to Cataldo.
“We have a good group of kids this year,” he said. “Early high school kids are just fans of the library.”
Volunteers were recruited a month in advance on a first-come, first-served basis and typically work two-hour shifts, once or twice a week. Their jobs include making the signup process run smoothly, handing out prizes to children, and inspiring others to continue reading.
“It’s good to get your volunteer hours here,” said Huntley High School sophomore Aesha Talia, who enjoys the relaxed, family environment of the children’s room. “We can spend time reading as well.”
Every child earns a free coupon from Old Country Buffet or Buffalo Wings & Rings in Crystal Lake for signing up. This year the grand prize for the children’s summer reading program is the chance to win a one-night stay at CoCo Key Water Resort in Rockford.
To be eligible for the grand-prize drawing, children must complete the entire reading log, earning various other prizes along the way.
The main contribution to the success of the program, however, lies in the participation of the community.
“They love to read and I want to keep them active over the summer,” said library patron Merrilee Ahrndt, whose two daughters recently signed up for the program.
The adult and teen programs, Savor a Good Book and Books R Brain Candy respectively, award those who sign up with a free book, courtesy of the Friends Foundation.
Teens earn a prize and an entry into the weekly prize drawing for every five hours of reading they complete, and adults earn an entry into the weekly prize drawing for every book read. Weekly prize drawings are iTunes cards and gift cards from Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Gamestop, Subway, and more.
“When kids are out of school the numbers skyrocket,” said Porsch. “It’s fun to see how excited they get to take their goodies home.”