At the Annapolis Area Library's start of the county's annual Summer Reading Club, Kobe Chaney took her time designing her cardboard "vanity plate." She planned to spell out "Hearts and Kisses."
Kobe, 9, of Edgewater won candy and jewelry in a reading club event one year at another library branch. To match this year's theme, "Reading Road Trip," the staff came up with road crafts for her and other children.
She likes to read mysteries and hopes she can win some prizes in the club this summer. "You can find adventures in what you read about," Kobe said.
The goal of the club is to have children sharpen their reading skills over the summer. Her grandmother, Brenda Jasper, said the reading program is good for Kobe and other children. She also brought her grandson and a friend of the family.
"It encourages them to read," Jasper said. "You know, you come to something like this, and next thing you know they see a book they want to read."
Last year, more than 14,000 children in preschool through 12th grade participated in the Anne Arundel County Public Library reading club, designed to keep children's reading skills sharp over the summer. This year's program started Monday with events at all 15 branches. The reading club runs until July 28.
This year, Joan Bradford, the library system's programming and outreach manager, has seen a spike in participation, noting that the Annapolis library was running short on game boards. She attributes that to the popularity of the program's peacock blue T-shirts. They have an imprint of the mascot, Sneaks the Cat, driving a car in front of an American flag.
"Everyone loves the T-shirts," Bradford said. "I think that has a lot to do with generating interest." Those who register also get coupons, such as one for a free children's meal at Chick-fil-A. Children become eligible for other prizes based on the number of books they read.
The prizes for younger kids are a Frisbee, a beach ball and a door hanger. Teens can win a compact disc case, a locker magnet board and a door hanger. Adults are also eligible to win prizes - a library system tote bag and mug.
The parents' reading club, which started last year, got about 100 registrations, Bradford said.
Competition among schools also spurs participation. The county library system rewards the public and private school with the highest participation rate with the Chesapeake Cup trophy. The trophy is awarded at an assembly in the fall.
At the Annapolis library Thursday, children took part in a singalong, then did crafts. Library staff spray-painted water bottles copper, green, orange and silver, then used bottle caps and straws for the wheels and axles. Children decorated them with stickers and felt shapes. They also created vanity license plates - cardboard rectangles spray-painted copper.
"Kids love that hands-on [activity]," said Gloria Davis, the library manager. "It sparks that creativity."
Christine Richardson, 13, volunteered to register children for the club at Annapolis library. She loved participating in the events when she was younger.
Christine didn't like reading at first because she didn't like the books that she was assigned at school. When she began to choose her own titles -- mainly fantasy -- she got hooked. Now she goes to the library at least four times a week.
"My mom reads a lot so I was like, 'How come I can't read too?'" she said.
For more information on events during the "Reading Road Trip," visit www.aacpl.net and click on Library Happenings.