Left: Larhonda Steele, left, reads to her daughter, Lauren Steele, 10, at the North Portland Library.
For 10-year-old Lauren Steele, summer reading is all about the prizes.
Well, OK, maybe it's not all about the prizes, but they do make it more appealing, she admits with a smile. Steele also loves to read, and the Multnomah County Library's Summer Reading Program encourages her to read when school's out.
"I've been reading a lot of the 'Goosebumps' (juvenile horror series)," she says, donning a pair of red sunglasses – a prize she just picked out after completing another reading goal for the summer program.
The soon-to-be fifth-grader says that, in addition to the books she's read on her own this summer – more than 10 already – she also reads to her younger sister. And all of that work counts toward the library's summer reading contest goals.
With still a month and a half left to go until the contest ends on Aug. 31, library patrons of all ages still have plenty of time to enter the contest. And one lucky child, who completes all of his or her reading goals, will win a vacation to Disneyland for them and their family.
So how do you play?
Pick up a game board at any Multnomah County Library location. For every 30 minutes spent reading or 15 minutes being read to, children earn one point on their reading "path." When a path is completed, they earn a prize, which could be a toy, a book or a coupon for pizza or a swim in a public pool. Once a child completes all of the paths — collecting more prizes along the way — their name is entered in a drawing for a vacation to Disneyland for the whole family. A bonus path allows children to earn "book bucks" for children and teens living in shelters. Children also have the opportunity to review the books they've read and get their writing posted online. Visit the library's Web site, www.multcolib.org, and follow the links to the Summer Reading Program.
The rules are slightly different for teens, who will have to spend more time in front of the printed page before earning prizes. And adults can compete in the "Read 4 Life" program, which gives you a chance to win a McMenamins gift certificate or a stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport.
North Portland Youth Librarian Valerie Tryon says the program helps students retain their reading skills during the summer. Depending on the reader, the prizes can serve as a greater motivator or a nice consolation prize.
"For some, it's what gets them going," she said. "For others, they would do it anyway."
And participation is booming. Last year, nearly 57,000 children and teens participated in the 2006 program. In all, 50 percent of Portland's elementary students participated.
And books and literature are also offered in five different languages, so members of Portland's immigrant communities aren't left out.
At the end of the summer, Steele says she'll have completed her entire game board. She lost her game board last year, a tragic event her mother, Larhonda, says her daughter has been working hard not to duplicate.
"Those prizes are wonderful motivators," Larhonda says.
For more information about the Summer Reading Program or other activities and events, visit your local library branch or go to www.multcol ib.org.