Baltimore County Public Library's 2011 Summer Reading Club begins Monday, June 20, at all 17 county library branches.
The theme this year is "One World, Many Stories," and involves exploring the world through stories and crafts.
When it comes to kids, there is a sneaky purpose behind the club, which runs through Aug. 13 at the Loch Raven and Cockeysville branches and Aug. 14 at the Towson branch. And it has little to do with Sneaks, BCPL's iconic feline mascot, who has been leading the charge each summer as club members explore a theme, have fun and win prizes and awards for reading.
Though the club is for all age groups, it is particularly important for young readers, according to Elizabeth Rafferty, a BCPL Youth Services specialist who helps coordinate the effort.
"It helps the kids maintain the reading level they achieved over the school year," she said. "If they don't read, they lose some of that ability."
But really, the Summer Reading Club is for everybody — adults, teenagers, children, youngsters not old enough to read, even babies.
The "Read-to-Me" component of the club is for babies and preschool children and their parents. Parents read to their children and complete the activities on the game board to win stickers and prizes.
"Reading to young children nurtures a love of reading and promotes reading readiness," Rafferty said.
Elementary school age kids can follow along on their own game board by reading books to win a prize. They bring their game board to their local branch to get a sticker after every five books read, and choose a completion prize when they finish the entire game board.
In addition, there's the "You Are Here" program for middle school teens.
To participate in this program, teens pick up an entry form at their local branch and start reading. They turn in an entry form every time they read three books, and can choose a prize drawing to enter.
There are a variety of prizes for the teen set, including an iPod touch, gift cards to stores and movie theaters and "mystery prizes."
For high school students and other adults, there is the Goodreads Group. A new addition this year, the group invites participants to submit a review of a book they thought was "a good read." Those who do are eligible to win prizes including a $50 gift certificate for Phillips Inner Harbor. For details, go to http://www.bcpl.info/goodreads.
Club members can buy BCPL T-shirts, which feature a different picture of Sneaks each year ($7.50 for kids, $8.75 for adults.) Library staffers said some people view them as collectibles, and have amassed a wardrobe of Sneaks shirts. This year's edition shows Sneaks wearing nine hats representing nine countries, and the shirt color is Mandarin orange.
Last year was BCPL's most successful Summer Reading Club ever with 35,479 registered participants, according to library spokesman Bob Hughes.
The Cockeysville branch signed up 4,163 readers for the club last year. There were 168 registrants at Loch Raven and 2,414 at Towson.
The club holds open registration all summer so adults and children can sign up at a branch anytime or go on line to register at http://www.bcpl.info/summerreading.