CEDAR RAPIDS — 1,116,093 minutes.
Not bad for eight weeks of reading for a group of kids enrolled in the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s summer reading program.
More than 300 people turned out to Greene Square Saturday morning to celebrate the accomplishment with face-painting, bouncy houses, popcorn, giant bubbles and other fun activities.
More than 4,500 children participated in this year’s Dare Summer Reading program, which challenged each child to read 300 minutes and complete eight “dares” — interactive learning experiences through which kids could earn badges.
Children logged hours read and their Dare achievements online.
Tess Anderson, one of the event organizers and a customer service associate at the library, said the Dare program is representative of work the library does year-round.
“It’s nice to see it all happening all at once, but this is what we do on a daily basis is bring families in and provide them with fun and resources,” she said. “We’re an opportunity for equal access for everyone. We don’t charge for any of our services and we’re here for everyone across the board.”
Amber Mussman, community resource manager at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, said the summer reading program not only provides entertainment, but it helps children engage in reading to make it a fun-filled activity.
“In summertime, kids are out of school,” she said. “One of the things we can do is make sure we provide that extra educational opportunity. Encouraging the kids to keep reading and keep interacting with the community through the summer Dare (activities), that’s a big part of why we do it. Summer reading is a big part of traditional library experience, but we really try to take a fun, intergenerational approach to it.”
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Alexis Bearbower, 13, of Cedar Rapids, read more than the required 300 minutes because she has a love of reading.
“It keeps you entertained,” Bearbower said. “You never know what’s going to happen next.”
Janda Ciha, Bearbower’s stepmother, said Bearbower and even her two siblings, ages 2 and 4, participated in the program.
Mussman said the dares in the program encourage the kids to try new activities and experience new places. Through new activities, she said children can associate reading with fun, creating a lifelong reader.
“It’s all about engagement, trying to find ways for kids to keep engaging in the community, to interact together, try different things,” she said. “There are studies that show if you tie reading to things people love, they will grow a love of reading so it’s really important to have that engagement.”
Mussman said kids in last summer’s Dare program, which was 12 weeks instead of 8, hit the 900,000 minute reading goal. Mussman said organizers of the program thought the 1 million-minute goal was lofty, but she was glad the goal was met. Next week, Mussman said they’ll begin thinking about next summer’s goal.