Whether you're on a plane or taking a road trip this summer, don't be surprised to see the person traveling next to you buried in a book.
Within the next few weeks, children and adults alike will be participating in summer reading programs at their local libraries. And most of those libraries will be participating in the annual iREAD summer program organized by the Illinois Library Association. This year's theme? "Have Book-Will Travel."
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"It's a great theme," said Jan Marsh of Gurnee's Warren-Newport Public Library. "Like peanut butter and jelly, very few things go together as well as traveling with a good book. They're two of the greatest things in the world."
Since 1981 the association has provided materials and a statewide summer program for libraries in Illinois. In recent years, several other states and 18 other countries have also purchased the program materials.
"In 1981, a bunch of librarians got together and asked why they were trying to individually figure out how to put on programming that every other library was doing as well," said Executive Director Bob Doyle. "Every library has a summer reading program so why not share ideas, programs, activities, and create a co-op to get things printed cheaper. They needed buying power, not a recreated wheel."
For $25, participating libraries get what Doyle called the "heart and soul" of the summer reading program, a 500-page book filled with activities, games, art, reading lists for children, young adults and adults. The fee also includes a CD with thousands of images of artwork the library can use for whatever they want.
The association also sells a full array of incentives to the libraries, as well.
Doyle said some of the more popular reading program incentives include postcards, hand stamps, fleece blankets, buttons and patches. Special for the current theme this year is the travel journal.
March said her library is also asking families to submit photos of themselves reading on vacation for a photo wall.
Individual libraries using the program also have the opportunity to use their own incentives. Readers in Naperville will read for prizes including gift certificates to local attractions such as DuPage Hounds baseball games, the DuPage Children's Museum and the local Colonial Cafe.
"We're really fortunate in Naperville to have so many community partners who support reading, not just in the summer, but year-round," said Naperville Public Library spokeswoman Lisa West. "As for the program, we're really fortunate to have the ILA and their program and resources for programming suggestions and really cool banners and promotions."
Those completing the program will be entered into a raffle to win one of three Kindle Fire e-readers per reading level.
In Gurnee, participants are vying for prizes ranging from a rubber duckie for the birth through second grade participants to a Nook e-reader for winning adults.
While a majority of local libraries have purchased the Illinois Library Association kits, there are a few out there doing their own thing.
Libraries in Arlington Heights, Aurora and Elgin are examples of those offering their own programs.
The Arlington Heights Memorial Library's summer reading program is tied to the recent $2.8 million library renovation, while Aurora has paired theirs with the construction of their new $28 million facility currently under construction. In Elgin, where the program typically follows the ILA program, Gail Borden Public Library District readers will participate in a program geared toward the SuperCroc exhibit on display through the summer.
Amber Creger, manager of the Kids' World department in Arlington Heights, said the "Make it! Read, Discover and Create" program aims to create a "more interactive and self-grown experience" from June 3 through Aug. 10.
Participants will set their own goals and participate in do-it-yourself type activities, including making their own music and videos in the library's digital media studios.
They'll also be doing so without the incentives that typically accompany such programs.
"We're doing away with them because the idea is that the experience should be enough," Creger said. "I've never seen a direct correlation between giving a kid a plastic toy and reading a book."
Teens will receive a passport of activities to complete along the way and a book of their choice at end of the program.
In Elgin, participants will "Read on the Wild Side" in conjunction with the University of Chicago SuperCroc exhibit, featuring two 40-foot-long crocodile models on display through Aug. 18.
"We don't get these incredible exhibits very often but when we do, we see record numbers of people come through our doors," said library spokeswoman Denise Raleigh. "We really maximize the impact of these exhibits when we are able to pair them up with our summer reading program."
Approximately 8,000 children are expected to read and earn points for rewards in the "Croc Shop" to earn a reptile book and other crocodile-related giveaways.
So whether you're traveling with a good book, researching amazing animals or creating something new, suburban libraries likely have a summer reading program to meet your needs.