To encourage more area children to read and for families to spend time together, the library is sponsoring their annual RAFT reading program by offering a free hardback copy of “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum to families who read at least three chapter books together.

The Mid-Continent Public Libraries are taking a stance on nationwide illiteracy throughout the winter months.

To encourage more area children to read and for families to spend time together, the library is sponsoring their annual RAFT reading program by offering a free hardback copy of “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum to families who read at least three chapter books together.

“Illiteracy is a serious problem in today’s society,” said Nancy Huffman, children’s specialist assistant for MCPL. “We want to stomp out the problem.”

RAFT, which stands for Reading Aloud Family Time, begins on Jan. 20 and lasts through March 31. It is taking place at all branch locations except the Midwest Genealogy Center.

According to Huffman, the program came about because the Summer Reading Program is such a huge success, and MCPL thought that something throughout the winter months would be a great addition for families to read and spend time together during that part of year when schedules are not too busy, as well as to fight the literacy problem by having children read with their parents.

“RAFT has been a very successful program. In our first year, we had 277 families complete the program, last year, we had 2,005 families,” Huffman said. “This year we set our goal high of 3,000.”

In addition to receiving the free hardback book, families who complete the challenge will also receive a certificate of completion and a chance at winning a “Screamin’ Fly Monkey” stuffed animal.

“RAFT is designed to bring families closer together through reading and to create memories,” said Bob Miller, branch librarian at the Blue Springs North. “Literacy is important as it one of the goals of libraries as we hope to bring people to the library to learn and for recreational reading.”