Summer reading program highlights Missouri's bicentennial

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

For summer reading programs, many libraries and library systems across the state are paying tribute to Missouri’s bicentennial. Mid-Continent Public Library is asking participants to “Show Me!” a good regular reading habit. 

Before, Michael Willis, youth services specialist, explained, children were asked to read 250 minutes for a prize. This year, as library staff aimed to help build regular reading and encourage at least 20 minutes a day of reading, they decided to build the summer program around it. 

Michael Willis, youth services specialist for Mid-Continent Public Library, describes some of the recommended children's books for the library's summer reading program, which draws on Missouri's bicentennial this year.

“We used to ask people to log their minutes, but the best way is a daily habit,” Willis said. “It seems much more attainable” for children. 

Participants can track their progress online, through the Beanstack Tracker app or on a paper log available at all MCPL branches or online to download. Sign up at 

Every reader who reads for 20 minute a day for 20 days receives a free book and will be entered into a branch drawing for a four-pack of tickets from Science City, the Truman Presidential Library and Museum or the Kansas City Zoo. Another 20 days nets a second book and another chance in a prize drawing. For 60 total days, it’s a third book and a chance in a branch drawing for a Kindle Fire. Participants up to age 19 are eligible for prizes. 

Of course, those 20 minutes don't have to be consecutive, and Willis said it could be listening to audiobooks or, for the youngest readers, simply following the signs along the road or using an activity kit that can be picked up at library branches. Some virtual programs will also be incorporated for reading activities. 

Mid-Continent hosted a summer reading program last year even with branches closed for the pandemic, though participants weren’t able to browse the libraries for their prize books, and branches couldn’t host in-person programming. Instead, the library mailed out the reward books to children. 

“We mailed out 20,000 books for prizes,” Willis said. “First time we did that.” 

Participation was noticeably smaller, he said, “But we got a lot of amazing feedback. There’s nothing better than getting mail when you’re 7 years old.” 

Still, Willis said, it will be better for children to browse the books. 

“Choosing their own books is the No. 1 indication if they will enjoy the selection,” he said. 

Mid-Continent has some Missouri-themed children’s books to offer for the program, such as stories about historical figures like Mark Twain or George Washington Carver. 

“We want them to have fun,” Willis said, “but it also helps prevent that summer slide of learning.” 

KCPL reopening

Kansas City Public Library will reopen nine of its 10 locations June 1. The Trails West branch in Independence, 11401 E. 23rd St., is under renovation and is to be closed until June 14. 

At all other locations, including the Sugar Creek Branch on Sterling Avenue, patrons can browse, retrieve holds and access the computers. Masks will still be required, food and drink are not permitted and meeting and study rooms are not yet available. 

KCPL’s summer reading program, “Homegrown Stories,” also begins June 1, and participants will be able to sign up at and track their progress through Beanstalk. Any participant, child or adult, who signs up receives a free book, and those who read five books will receive a beverage mug.