Schools are wrapping up, the weather is warming up, and June is a day away. Another clear sign of summer: Libraries, businesses and others are gearing up to engage and reward summer readers.
Salt Lake County’s popular program will kick off Friday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the library’s Viridian Event Center and Veterans Memorial Park, 8030 S. 1825 West in West Jordan. Activities will include live entertainment, laser tag, face painting, crafts, music, food and more; at dusk, West Jordan City will show “WALL-E” in the park.
The theme of this year’s challenge is “A Universe of Stories,” honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.
Last year, almost 28,000 kids from infants to age 12 signed up, along with 7,500 teens and more than 23,000 adults, said Liz Sollis, communications manager for the county library system.
“We’ve actually seen a huge increase in adult participation over the last few years,” she said.
Participants keep a record of five types of activities. The challenge encourages book fans of all ages “to not only read but to also engage in their community,” Sollis said, “by connecting with others, to learn something new, create something; there’s multiple opportunities for people to participate.”
Book recommendations range from “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me” for prereaders to 2018′s “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” and “Record of a Spaceborn Few” — and classics like “Dune” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — for adults.
Readers receive $2 off admission to the Natural History Museum of Utah from June 1 to Aug. 31.
Those who complete the challenge win a free book, an entry into a drawing for prizes, and can attend one of the free Library Days — with scavenger hunts and crafts — at the Natural History Museum in August.
They also get a free child admission voucher, with the purchase of adult admission, to a Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation center or outdoor pool. And they’ll receive a discount voucher to a Utah Grizzlies game this fall. Readers who go on to complete more challenges — completing a “Rocket Booster” — win more drawing entries or another free book.
Find details about the county’s summer challenge and its branch locations at www.slcolibrary.org.
The county’s Friday kickoff party is also the first spot to get a stamp in the ZAP Kids Summer Passport — which invites explorers age 17 and under to locations that are either free or steeply discounted, from June 1 through Aug. 23.
Each destination is either a county partner or receives grants from ZAP, Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts and Parks program, with funding raised through a share of sales taxes.
Passport holders who earn five stamps will get a ticket to a Final Destination Celebration at Discovery Gateway in September. Passports will be available at county and city libraries and the Murray Library starting June 1; find more details at ZAPISYOU.org.
Research shows that reading during the summer helps kids minimize the “summer slide,” a potential drop-off in reading skills. Children’s librarians and reading experts offer strategies from letting kids choose the stories they read and the format they use (e-readers, graphic novels, audiobooks) to family reading time. Here are other area reading programs that offer kids incentives.
Salt Lake City libraries
The Salt Lake City Public Library System is also using the universe theme, and will celebrate the start of its summer program at 8 p.m. Friday by showing the movie “Space Jam” in the outdoor amphitheater at the Anderson-Foothill branch, 1135 S. 2100 East, Salt Lake City.
Four reading trackers for its summer reading program are available: Babies & Toddlers, Kids, Teens, and Adults, each with suggested activities. The system also suggests going paperless by using its Beanstack site online or by downloading the Beanstack app.
Find details at events.slcpl.org/supersummer.
Other libraries around the state are also offering programs, many using the Apollo anniversary theme suggested by the national Collaborative Summer Library Program. Check with your local branch.
My529 college savings
Students age 18 and under who sign up for a summer reading program at their local library can then register for a chance to win one of four $1,000 my529 scholarships. (It’s the program formerly known as the Utah Educational Savings Plan.) Just go to bookyoursummer.com/signup to fill out and submit the form.
Utah State Fair
The Read & Win summer reading program is for students entering first through sixth grades in 2019. Kids who read 10 books can earn a free ticket to the Utah State Fair, Sept. 5-15, and coupons for a free ride and drink.
The program runs from May 1 to July 26, and all entries must be mailed by July 26. Find details and the entry form at utahstatefair.com, after clicking on the fair and its education tab.
Read with the Salt Lake Bees
Kids ages 6 to 14 can win prizes and tickets to the Salt Lake Bees game on July 31 by reading, or being read to, for 20 minutes a day. For each 20 minutes, they can color in a baseball on a downloadable game board to earn a pencil, a book, a McDonald’s Happy Meal and the tickets.
The deadline to submit entries is July 15. Find details at readtoday.com. The program is presented by Read Today, Deseret News and KSL in partnership with McDonald’s and Gov. Gary Herbert.
Boosts from businesses
Here are a few of the businesses also offering incentives for kids.
Amazon • The online retailing giant has a read-from-home program for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. Read any eight books by Sept. 10 to receive a certificate and your choice of a free book. For more information, go to amazon.com.
Applebee’s • You can pick up a Bookworm Reading Club for kids ages 10 and under at your local Applebee’s. Kids who read and record 10 books on the card receive a free kids meal (with the purchase of an adult meal).
Barnes & Noble • Students in grades 1-6: Read any eight books this summer; record them in a Summer Reading Journal (available in stores and at barnesandnoble.com); bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between Aug. 1-31; receive a free book. (There are stores in Sugarhouse, Murray, Fort Union, West Jordan, Sandy, West Bountiful, Layton and Orem.)
Pottery Barn • There’s a weekly story time at the Trolley Square location (602 E. 500 South) on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Pottery Barn Kids Club Members receive a “special surprise” after attending five events. For more information, go to potterybarnkids.com.
Scholastic’s Read-a-Palooza • The children’s book publisher Scholastic offers an annual Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge, a free online program that is already underway. Children who sign up at scholastic.com/summer can log the number of minutes they read, unlocking digital rewards as they complete weekly challenges. The program also lets readers have access to book excerpts, videos and other exclusive content.
The publisher is also donating at least 200,000 books through the United Way across the country when the program hits milestones of 25 million, 50 million and 100 million minutes. The program crossed the 25-million-minute milestone on Wednesday.
Tribune reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this report.