The public library kicked off its summer reading program Wednesday, which includes events like storytelling sessions, as well as a contest in which everyone can be a winner.
People can register online, log the books they read before August 1 and win a prize for hitting the target number of books.
Children ages 1 through 12 aim to read and log 15 books, whereas the goal for teens and adults is six. Prizes in the form of T-shirts will be given to anyone who meets the goals.
"It's a fun way to earn something for reading books," said Jenny Lee Ryan, the library's program coordinator. "And in the process, find out that reading is really fun."
Ryan said she has seen participation increase in the past six years, partly because of the outreach by members of the library's youth services department, who gave a presentation about the summer reading program at every public school in San Juan County.
"Studies have shown that kids who participate in summer reading programs at their local library retain their skills, so they don't have to start over at the beginning of the school year," Ryan said.
Adults can participate in the program, as well, and Ryan hopes that the incentive for logging books will encourage literacy. In 2006, 52 percent of San Juan County adults had a below-average literacy level, compared with 46 percent of adults across the state, according to a report by the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy.
Low literacy levels are related to higher crime and unemployment rates. In 2005, U.S. businesses spent an estimated $600 million on remedial reading, writing and math skills training for undereducated employees. Strong readers are more likely vote, and low-literacy adults add an estimated $230 billion a year to the cost of health care in the U.S., according to advocacy group ProLiteracy.
"Libraries play such a vital part in the community for adults and childhood literacy," said Jane Hugo, vice president of Programs and Professional Services at ProLiteracy. "Summer reading programs are powerful for adults and children because they can self-select their books and read about things they are interested in.
It helps address different types of learners and learning styles. It encourages adults and children to spend more time looking at books, and then they retain or improve their skills."
Ryan understands the importance of providing opportunities to foster people's interest in reading.
"We've had a great increase in participation every year," she said.
She hopes the scheduled events, including sessions with storytellers like Brenda Hollingsworth Marley and Indiana Bones, will bring in new readers and emphasize how much fun reading can be.
Events are free to the public and none require registration. For more information and a schedule of summer reading events, visit the library's website at www.infoway.org.