Kicking off summer reading 2019

From left, Abby and her daughter Avery Depuy, 6, both of Verona, check out some books from the library as part of the summer reading program.

As the Verona Public Library began to prepare for its annual summer reading program without a building the public could enter, Julie Harrison was optimistic.

The assistant director and head of youth services got help carrying out the program during the COVID-19 pandemic with the help of the state Department of Public Instruction.

DPI created a customizable app called “Beanstack” that implemented an online reading program ranging from toddler to adult reading levels.

“The department helped us out tremendously,” Harrison said. “They funded our entire online summer reading program.”

The program got the most out of an unusual summer despite the pandemic, Harrison said.

The 1,546 people signed up had read a total of 1,368,722 total minutes as of Aug. 19, she reported – down from other summers but still solid.

“That number made me very happy,” Harrison said.

Harrison said she tried to get the word out as much as possible and tried to implement games to motivate the summer readers.

Readers could add up the number of minutes read on the Beanstack app and could receive prizes. The prizes differed from each age group, but some of the most popular ones they could receive were Beats headphones, Nintendo Switch Lite and overnight pool parties.

Adult readers were able to win gift cards to various restaurants for every 20 hours read.

“We had events called “craft bag events,” that we would host on Facebook live. “It was sort of like a virtual book club.”

Readers also could receive coupons to places such as Pizza Hut and Culver’s.

Harrison said reading is especially important at a time like this.

“Reading is a great escape from the real world,” she said. “Absorb yourself in a story and forget about life for a minute.”