South Charlotte

‘Catch the Reading Bug!' is drawing children into books

Rising Bain Elementary School first-grader Riley Pierce loves to play, but this summer she's also been reading, thanks in part to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library's “Catch the Reading Bug!” summer reading program.

In addition to playing outside, swimming, and other summer activities, Riley and her big brother, Zack, have made quite a few trips to the Mint Hill branch library courtesy of their mom, Melissa Pierce.

Riley's already logged 13 hours of summer reading, her brother a few more. And the program continues until Aug. 6, so they're sure to reach their goal of 20 hours.

Riley and Zack are just two of the 1,205 children signed up so far for the summer reading program at the Mint Hill branch.

Of those, 300 are halfway to their 20-hour goal, and 150 more have completed the program.

For each hour read, participants mark a space off their “Buggy” reading record.

At 10 hours, they are awarded a “bug cube,” similar to a Rubik's Cube but with insects, or a Book Buck.

At 20 hours they are awarded a water bottle or another Book Buck.

At the end of the program, children who chose Book Bucks will turn them in to the branch, and the money the Book Bucks represent can be used to buy books for community centers in less advantaged areas of the county.

Geri Sponaas, youth services manager at the Mint Hill Branch, says substituting Book Bucks for prizes is a way to encourage children to read and give back to their community.

Teens also are reading this summer with 333 signed up for the program at Mint Hill, the third largest number of teen participants in the system.

They have to read 25 hours to complete their program, but Sponaas says the prizes make it worth it.

At 15 hours, they receive a book sack; and at 25 hours, they receive a flash drive as well as a coupon for $5 worth of printing at the library. (A black and white sheet normally costs 10 cents and a color sheet is $1.)

Seventy-three Mint Hill teens have finished the program.

So what is everyone reading?

Sponaas says with teens the answer is easy: the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and the two “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books. In fact, the Twilight series is so popular that adults also are reading: There are 346 people requesting the system to hold the three-book series.

Younger kids are also reading the Wimpy Kid series as well as Junie B. Jones books, “Magic Tree House” books and “Spiderwick Chronicles.”

As for Riley, Junie B. Jones is her series of choice, and any book she's currently reading about Junie B. is her favorite. Last week it was “Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket.”

Sponaas says the number of children participating in summer reading in Mint Hill is up more than 50 percent from last year.

“Our number is way up for several reasons. We have so many more people moving into the Mint Hill community; but, more importantly, I believe that gas prices have helped out as well,” Sponaas said. “More people are staying in town and looking for a place that is fun and convenient for their kids. That's the Mint Hill library.”