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Watch now: Decatur summer reading program underway

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Library Assistant John Schirle talks about the Summer Reading Program. 

DECATUR — Ethan and Adyson Peterson are avid readers and would read even without being part of the summer reading program at the Decatur Public Library, but incentives don't hurt a bit.

The 8- and 9-year-old read every night before bed as a way to wind down from the day, said their mother, Lindsey, as the two children examined Ethan's choice of book for the week, a non-fiction account of creatures of the ocean. Ethan likes reading about sharks, he said.

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Ethan, left, and his sister, Adyson Peterson, read a book titled "Extreme Oceans" while at the Decatur Public Library. Both are from Decatur and are involved in the Summer Reading Program. Visit to see a video about the program.

“We do (the reading program) every year,” Lindsey Peterson said. “It just encourages them to read more. We read all the time, anyway, but it encourages them with the incentives, and they get special prizes. But they love to read. They're really good about it.”

Last summer's program had to be very different, said library assistant John Schirle, who works in the children's department. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the library had to be closed for a time, and even once it was open again, people were less comfortable visiting. The library signed up for an app called Beanstack, and children, young adults and adults who signed up for the summer reading program could log their reading online. That was convenient for so many people that the library is continuing with that app this summer, or people can come in and get traditional paper logs.

“We used it last summer, we used it for the winter reading program, so we have lots of families already registers on there and they're comfortable using it,” Schirle said. “It's really a super simple app that's on your phone and once you get logged in, it's super simple to log your reading on there. A lot of kids like having a paper log where they can check off their reading days and get a sticker and write down their favorite books, and that's great. It's a visual reminder of participation.”

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Terrance Wilson, right, and his mother, Joanne Wilson, pick up a goodie bag because of all the books Terrance has read so far this year while at the Decatur Public Library. Both are from Decatur. Visit to see a video about the program.

The summer reading program began June 1, but it's not too late to sign up, he said. Readers choose their own books and set their own goals. Rather than log reading by number of books or pages read, participants log how many minutes per day they spent reading. That way, Schirle said, children who are just learning to read or are being read to still get credit for the time spent.

Registration is available in person or online at

The library's goal is to have 15,000 reading days by the end of the program in mid-August, and already, one week in, participants have logged 1,141 reading days, with 604 children, 33 young adult and 186 adult readers signed up.

Prizes for children in the program range from book bags and coupons for McDonald's and Papa Murphy's to a free book in week 5, while young adults (ages 13-19) and adults (19 and older) get tickets which will be put into a drawing for prizes at the end of the summer, he said.

Educators often talk about the “summer slide,” when kids' skills at reading and math take a hit during the summer break from school. Schirle said the reading program is one way to combat that slide, and keep kids' skills sharp over the summer, with the added incentive of being able to read anything they enjoy. The children's department is well-stocked and the digital library has even more choices, plus the library has access to borrow books for participants from other libraries around the state, so whatever subject and reading level is wanted, the library can accommodate, he said.

The summer reading program traditionally winds up with a performance by READiculous, made up of Susan Bishop and Alissa Henkel, but without knowing what the COVID-19 guidelines will be and what the library's board will decide about whether it's safe to host a large gathering, Bishop said, that is not planned as of now. They are hoping to return to their usual schedule of performances at schools in the fall, and in the meantime, they have their own YouTube channel with videos of past performances.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter


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