As an adult, one of the things I really miss is summer.

Oh, not the heat and humidity.  I never liked that aspect of summer even when I was a child, and I like it even less now.  But summer as a time when you’re not in school and you don’t have responsibilities and so you can go to the library and take out a stack of books and just sit back and read under a tree or in your room for hours: that’s what I miss.

When my daughter was young, she was involved in the summer reading program at our library. It was great: she got to read lots of books (which she loved to do anyway), she would report on them at the library, she’d get stickers to put on a plastic banner that moved around the room based on how many books she read, and then at the end of the summer she’d be invited to a pizza party.  I was jealous, frankly, of all the fun she had with the summer reading game.

But what’s to stop us as adults from having that kind of fun?  Our dignity?  Our busy-ness? The fact that nobody’s offering us a game with prizes and the like?

Well, I have nothing to do about your sense of dignity or busy-ness, but this year I am running a summer reading program for adults at our library. It started on July 1, it’s ending on Labor Day, and it’s almost ridiculously easy to play.

You come to the library and you sign up. You get a sheet to keep track of your reading, and you get the makings of a game piece, which you decorate and return.  Then you read!  And read and read and read, and keep track on your sheet of whatever you’ve read and how many pages it was.  You bring that sheet in to the library, where we copy the information onto the sheet we keep at the front desk, and then you get to move your game piece around on our game board, one space for every 150 pages you read.  Along the way you get prizes!  Yes, some of the prizes are cheesy (little emoticon erasers, pens with clips to hang them on your belt loop or purse strap, little bright colored notebooks), but some of them are cool (advance readers copies of books that haven’t been published yet!).  You also get a raffle ticket for every 150 pages you report, and at the end of the summer we’ll pull one ticket for the grand prize (which I haven’t chosen yet, but which will be awesome).  And of course there will be a party for everyone who gets to the finish line on the board.

There are no limits on what “counts” as reading.  Audio books count, graphic novels count, paperbacks count, YA books count, whatever you’re reading counts.  We’re not here to tell you what to read or to judge your reading choices.  We’re here to encourage reading!

And the real prize is the pleasure of reading, of giving yourself permission to read your heart out, even if summer isn’t the responsibility-free time it was when you were a kid.

If you’re not within the reach of our library, I still encourage you to create your own summer reading game.  Keep track of your reading.  Give yourself prizes (cheesy or otherwise) as you reach certain milestones.  Compete with yourself in previous years, or get some reading friends together to have a little friendly competition (your book group?  Your neighbors?).  Summer is for reading.

Let’s bring back the fun of summer reading!


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