HAZEL PARK — A summer tradition at the Hazel Park library is making its winter debut.
The Winter Reading Challenge is similar to the summer reading program, with weekly prizes for those who record their reading hours. The challenge started Jan. 25 and runs through March 19.
Details on how to sign up are at the library’s website, hazel-park.lib.mi.us. The program uses the free online program READsquared, available at hazelparklibrary.readsquared.com for both Android and Apple devices. With READsquared, one can record reading hours, earn badges, play games and do challenges. These earn points that qualify participants for prizes.
The software notifies the librarians whenever someone earns a prize. There are weekly prize drawings for the kids, and the prizes can be picked up curbside at the library, located near the corner of John R Road, at 123 E. Nine Mile Road.
Those without a cellphone or a computer can contact the library for a printed reading log that they can then use to mark off their reading hours, similar to the summer reading program.
For every four hours of reading, or 240 points, a participant earns a prize. After nine hours, one will also be able to pick out a free book and a prize. And upon finishing the top goal of 12 hours of reading, participants can pick out another free book and prize.
The prizes are said to get better after every four hours of reading, so after each level. And if people want to go through the process again, they can do so and win even more prizes.
Amy Beem, a librarian at the Hazel Park Memorial District Library, said the program aims to fill a gap for students.
“A lot of children have been cooped up in their house and have not been able to go anywhere much since last March. School is virtual right now, so children have not been able to see each other at school and socialize on the playground. They have also not been able to come to the library for their usual story-times, playing with Legos, and Family Fun Night,” Beem said via email. “So we thought having a reading challenge where they can earn prizes would be a fun alternative, since we are not able to have in-house programming right now.
“I am hoping that the chance to earn some awesome prizes will encourage children to read,” she said. “The more you read, the more you will grow. Reading boosts vocabulary and connections between text and real-life experiences. Many libraries are offering free virtual reading opportunities, so check them out and enjoy some good literature. Start a family book club, story time, or other reading activities. One of the best brain-building activities is to read, so any way you can encourage reading while kids are out of school or cooped up is a win.”
Corrine Stocker, the library director, agreed.
“Children have been participating in virtual school because they have to; we hope that they will participate in our Winter Reading Challenge because they want to,” Stocker said via email. “We want to give kids in our community a fun way to beat the winter doldrums. Although the program is virtual, reading books gives children a fun off-screen activity to do. And we all know that everyone loves to earn prizes! Just as people work out at the gym and do other exercises to strengthen their muscles and bodies, reading is the best exercise for the human brain.
“We also want to remind folks that even though there’s a pandemic, their library is still here,” Stocker said. “We can literally get them any books that they want, as well as movies, music and media to enrich their lives as they exercise their brains.”
For more information, call the Hazel Park Memorial District Library at (248) 546-4095.