The Knox County Public Library has launched its 2021 Summer Reading Program for youngsters.

The theme for this year’s event is Tails and Tales, and just as with past years, the reading program provides swag and prizes for those who participate.

And many have signed on so far. Library Director Emily Bunyan has been thrilled by the public’s response.

“I look out my office window and see so many families registering,” Bunyan said. “We have already gotten pre-pandemic numbers.

“Last year we only had around 250, but this year we already have around 450 registered.”

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic waning, library officials say participants can continue from the comforts of home. In an attempt to prevent further spread of coronavirus, most of the reading-related programs will still be virtual this summer.

Youth and Teen Librarian Roger Stemming is hopeful to see things return to normal — which is to say more children back in the library — next year.

“When we were planning this, masking was still required,” Stemming said. “So we’re moving forward as if masking and social distancing are still in place.”

Those registered are expected to use their timesheets to mark their time spent reading. Participants may read books, ebooks, magazines, comic books, and newspapers. Audiobooks and podcasts, too, are included.

For every hour (two hours for teens) spent reading, participants are awarded one point.

Attending programs is another way to win points, and there will be a wide variety for all ages on the KCPL Facebook Page.

Some of these will be prerecorded while others will be live for readers to participate in real time.

Readers, too, can stop by the library each week to grab a different craft pack, which include everything participants need for a small art project. Some of those will then be hung in the library or patrons to enjoy.

Points earned can be redeemed for prizes. Readers can choose to stockpile their points throughout the summer or spend them as they receive them.

Every age group, too, will have a set of badges they can collect throughout the summer by completing various tasks, things like reaching reading goals or attending programs.

And everyone who is registered is invited to participate in a Tails and Tales event in the library’s courtyard, 502 N. Seventh St., on July 10.

Sign-ups kicked off in May with the program running through the month of July. The final day to claim prizes will be July 31.

For Bunyan, this year’s summer reading program is extremely important following the COVID-19 pandemic. With virtual learning and missed days of school last year, many school administrators fear a back slide in learning, not unlike what many children experience during their summer months off.

“Reading is fundamental,” Bunyan said. “I think it’s even more critical now.”

Bunyan credits the library as being instrumental in bridging that gap; participating students not only can prevent the summer slide but also potentially get ahead, too — or even make up lost time due to the pandemic.

The library, too, offers an entire world of learning opportunities in a single building.

“Some children have access to family trips, transportation to historical sites, and other opportunities that other children just don’t have,” Bunyan said.

Stemming echoes Bunyan’s sentiment and is thankful the library is back open.

“We offered our cur-side service, but there are so many things that the library offers that people didn’t get to utilize during the pandemic.” Stemming said. “People thank us all the time for just being here.

“The library is so important,” he said.

Bunyan also added that children should absolutely be reading — both for learning and fun.

“It’s essential to embrace the written word in all formats,” she said. “We like people to enjoy the written word.

“With these summer programs, children can explore, read what they’re interested in, and oftentimes when they do, they become better readers.

For more information contact Stemming at People are also encouraged to check out the library’s Facebook and Instagram accounts @KCPLibraryIN.

Additional information is available by calling 812-886-4380 or check out their website

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