PORTLAND — Summer reading programs, those age-old bribes to get students to crack a book during their precious few months of freedom, aren’t just for kids anymore.
The Portland Public Library starts its second adult summer reading program on June 1, and like the children’s program, it encourages patrons to dig into some good books during long days spent on the beach – or elsewhere.
And of course, like any good summer reading program, the library is offering prizes, albeit slightly more mature ones than they might hand out to the school-aged readers.
“We have a lot of adults who really just like this little incentive,” said librarian Jim Charette, who heads a team of library staff known as the City of Readers, whose charge is to “reinvigorate reading and fiction in Portland.”
Readers are given a sort of punch card to keep track of their reading. After finishing four books, the cards may be returned to the main desk at any branch library, or at the main branch’s Reader Advisory desk, in exchange for prizes – usually gift cards for things like a cup of coffee, soup, or a sandwich at local businesses that donated to the program.
Each completed card is entered into a bigger, end-of-summer drawing for larger prizes, Charette said.
So the reader who really wants to improve their shot at winning the free visit to a massage therapist is perhaps better off reading through Isaac Asimov’s fast-moving science fiction catalog than say, the works of Charles Dickens, Charette said.
But, “we don’t pass judgment,” he said. And the librarians “are not going to grill you to make sure you actually read the books.”
Although they may ask what readers have been enjoying.
“In the very best world, when someone turns in their cards … we might have a conversation with them, and we might help them find their next book,” Charette said.
Charette is expecting this year’s program to be bigger than last year’s, when participants turned in about a thousand cards. A few “superstar readers” turned in eight or nine cards, meaning about 25 books read.
This year, the program starts a few weeks earlier, and runs until Sept. 1.
E-books count along with traditional paper volumes, Charette said, although the library prefers that participants in the program get their books from the library.
The library’s kids summer reading program starts in mid-June, and the staff is always happy to see parents acting as reading role models for their children, Charette said, although sometimes it works the other way around.