15 Libraries Taking Summer Reading to the Next Level

Summer reading programs have long been a staple of library activities in communities all across the nation, yet many libraries today are offering much more than the usual programs that encourage young kids to read by tracking their progress and offering rewards. Today, many reading programs are accompanied by seriously cool reading and education-related events and there are numerous reading programs targeting adults and teens, pushing whole families to enjoy a few good books over the summer months. While not an exhaustive list (there are a lot of amazing libraries out there), here we highlight some of the libraries we think are going above and beyond in their summer reading initiatives, offering programs and activities that help readers spend their summers reading, learning, sharing, and growing.

  1. Framingham Public Library:

    Framingham Public Library has a great summer reading program for keeping young minds engaged during their break from school, but where it really stands out is in what it has to offer adults. In recent years, the library has developed summer reading programs that target adults, offering additional entries in a raffle for every book they read. Readers log their books, which are of their own choosing, and at the end of the summer can get a chance to win a grand prize: a new Kindle. The library also sponsors other adult-focused events over the summer, including screening foreign films and hosting lectures on topics like super heroes and mythology.

  2. The Charles H. Stone Memorial Library:

    When kids sign up for the summer reading program at this North Carolina library, they get a whole lot more than just motivation to read. The library has incorporated a number of fun and exciting events into their summer reading program. These include a mobile space lab, yoga classes for kids, magic shows, nighttime parties for tweens, and plenty of fun activities for teens. Kids of any age can also compete to see who can read the most books, with a cash prize to the winner.

  3. Pima County Public Library:

    From the end of May until the end of July, patrons of this Arizona library can enjoy a reading program that offers incentives and fun for readers of all ages. Readers track their progress throughout the summer in a reading passport and can take part in a huge assortment of activities at the library. Adults can learn more about native plants, taking photos, or even how to paint landscapes; teens get access to events on anime, cardio kung fu, and superheroes; and younger kids can enjoy juggling shows, story time, and rocket-building activities. All in all, there are more than 100 different activities for readers over the summer that can make a quick trip to this library a real adventure.

  4. Metropolitan Library System:

    This library system in Oklahoma offers patrons some seriously amazing ways to beat the summer heat and have fun. What’s on the docket? Magic shows, steampunk-themed exhibits, business building classes, wizard rock shows, and a gnome hunt. The summer reading program throughout the library system offers a chance for everyone from toddlers to teens to get reading over the summer, with games and prizes for all involved.

  5. New Orleans Public Library:

    Kids who are lucky enough to live close to this library can take part in a fun reading program that motivates them with small incentives to keep reading throughout the summer. When they’re at the library picking out some new reads, they can also enjoy activities like a presentation on birds of prey, complete with live birds, as well as magic shows, interactive bug presentations, and more. Older kids and teens can enjoy poetry and drama workshops, movie and game nights, and even fun crafts. The summer programs must be doing something right, as this year the library recorded 3,260 kids and almost 500 teens signed up.

  6. Newton County Library:

    Kids and adults alike can find activities to get them reading and learning over the summer at Newton County Library in Georgia. Through the end of July, kids can sign up and pledge to read at least 15 minutes a day, with those meeting the goal winning free books and gift certificates. They can also head to the library to hear storytellers, read books under the stars (with a flashlight, of course), and other activities. Adults shouldn’t feel left out, however, as the library also has plenty planned for them. There are lunchtime book clubs, poetry reading groups, bridge clubs, and other activities to help motivate adults to read, read, read during the summer.

  7. Indianapolis Public Library:

    This year’s reading program at the IPL is called Gear Up for Good, and it’s open to toddlers, young kids, teens, and parents. All can earn points and rewards for reading, even parents when they read aloud to their kids. So what makes this program stand out? A couple of things. There’s an amazing children’s book blog full of recommendations, an earn-and-learn program to help youngsters pay off library debt, and loads of educational programs, from science to steampunk, for teens and younger kids. Even better, each week the library screens a family friendly movie that all can enjoy.

  8. Fort Worth Public Library:

    At this Texas library, readers aren’t just challenging themselves. They’re also working to take part in the Mayor’s Summer Reading Challenge, which is open to participants of all ages and offers some pretty snazzy prizes for the winners. In addition to really pushing reading during the summer months, Fort Worth also brings in patrons with a number of exciting and fun activities, including storytellers, parties, art exhibits, games, movies, and even a jazz festival.

  9. Harris County Public Library:

    Harris County Public Library is working to build a “reader nation” with their summer program, in part by not just focusing on younger readers. At Harris, patrons can take part in adult summer reading programs as well, which have enjoyed great popularity since it was implemented last year (an 81% jump in participation). What makes it so cool? Participants can get recommendations and share their thoughts through the ReaderNation blog or from a personal reading consultant. The more books patrons read, the more chances they get to be entered in drawings for really great prizes. Teens and kids can also get in on the fun through their summer-long reading program and activities as well.

  10. Clermont County Public Library:

    Featuring the theme of “Read: Morning, Noon, and Night” this year, the reading program at this Ohio library is a great way to help get kids reading and having fun while doing it over the summer. There are four different age-leveled programs at the library, all of which offer fun prizes and rewards to kids who make it through multiple books over the summer, including an iPad for teen readers. One of the coolest aspects of the program is its digital integration, as there are blogs, booklists, tweets, and Facebook updates on all activities, and kids and parents can sign up and track their reading online.

  11. Findlay Hancock County Public Library:

    Findlay Hancock County Public Library is another library that’s helping to get adults in on the summer reading fun. Since 1993, the library has offered a summer reading program for adults, both to get them reading and to help them set an example for younger readers. In addition to tracking their reading, the library offers adult readers discussion groups, programs on wildlife, and classes on topics like scrapbooking, jewelry making, and even basket-weaving.

  12. New York Public Library:

    You know this library’s summer reading program is massive: the website for it is simply called “summerreading.org.” This year, the New York Library system alone logged almost 23,000 registrations for the program, not including those in Queens or Brooklyn. So many flock to New York’s reading programs in the summer because they have a lot of offer. Children, teens, and adults can sign up online and find books, write reviews, track reading, create booklists, earn badges, and build an online profile. Even more enticing are the activities that libraries throughout New York city host. From chess games to films and video games to knitting circles, there’s something for everyone.

  13. Aiken County Public Library:

    What’s cooler than being able to win prizes for reading? At Aiken County Public Library, kids can meet creatures big and small from the local River Ecology Lab, take part in a Star Wars family fun night, embrace creativity in an abstract painting class, watch puppets, learn about chocolate, and much more. Of course, the reading is a pretty great motivator, too, and kids and teens can read their way to a number of great prizes through the end of July at the library.

  14. Seattle Public Library:

    In order to celebrate the anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, the summer reading program this year is called “Read the Future” and is open to children, teens, and adults. Readers young and old can sign up online for the program, where they can collect badges for the books they’ve read and can review books they like or didn’t like. Even better, the more reviews they post, the more chances they’ll get to be entered in grand prize drawings. In addition to the fun online offerings, the library also offers a wealth of activities throughout the summer including movie nights, grown-up story times, operatic performances, readings, and lectures on science and literature topics.

  15. San Antonio Public Library:

    Like Fort Worth, San Antonio Public Library also has a mayor-sponsored summer reading program, but this one’s for teens. This year’s theme is “A Summer Among the Stars” and features reading lists and activities that help teens to learn more about the mysteries of the universe, alien life forms, and more. Teens can share reviews of books they’ve read (or listened to) online and attend activities on topics like writing, anime, chess, knitting, and more. One thing this library offers that others don’t? A free lunch program, which can help underprivileged kids get some food, enjoy a book, and take part in community activities.

Don’t see your awesome local library on this list? Let us know what other libraries you think are doing a stand-out job with summer reading in the comments.