It's important to help keep children reading over the winter break, said Laurie Hotz, children's librarian at the Fort Dodge Public Library. But the Library's winter reading program will also encourage adults to snuggle up with a good book.
Starting Jan. 7, readers of all ages can stop by the library and drop off their name and the title of a book they've been reading, Hotz said. Each week, there will be a drawing for a prize in the children's department and the adult department.
"Whose ever name comes out of the drawing will get a book bag that's got a nice cozy blanket, and some snacks, and a book light, an ice scraper, different things you would need for winter," she said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Laurie Hotz, Fort Dodge Public Library children’s librarian, Jacquez Canavan, left, and Malachai Crotts one of the books available for winter reading. The library’s official winter reading program begins Jan. 7.
The program has been popular in the past, when it was mostly for children; more than 500 families participated the first year.
"As the years have gone on we've decided, you know, there are a lot of families who don't have a child, but that still would like to participate. So now it encompasses families with teenagers, or a family with someone who is alone.
"I think it will go well because we have a lot of adults who get snowbound over the winter, who are reading as well, so they'll be able to win the prize too."
A lot of popular authors release books at this time of year, she said, and those are always popular with adults.
"Cookbooks are just flying off the shelves, especially anything that talks about a specialty," she said. "Maybe a German specialty or a Norwegian specialty. We get a lot of requests for cookbooks from different countries during the holiday season. Everybody's looking for Grandma's favorite recipe because they've lost it."
The old classic Christmas stories are always popular with families. Hotz pointed out the Christmas shelf in the children's section, topped with small Christmas trees. She picks some of the favorite books out of there to display on the front shelf nearest the children's desk.
"I've been refilling this about five times a day," she said.
Many of those classic books are also tied to TV and movies, like "Frosty the Snowman," "Polar Express," and even "Elf."
"Or, of course, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas.' That's hugely popular," she said. "We probably have five copies of that book, and they're all checked out."
Reading through vacation
It's important for kids to keep reading over the holiday break, Hotz said, because of how quickly they can forget what they've learned.
"They can lose those reading skills just in that 10-day time period that they have for break. It's amazing how quickly they'll lose those skills," she said.
"During the summer when kids come in, often times only a week into summer vacation, they'll forget how to spell their last name, they'll forget where they go to school, what grade they were in."
Hotz had plenty of suggestions to keep kids reading.
"There's a lot of ways to sneak reading in there without getting caught," she said.
Base it on their interests.
There's a lot of things to read besides story books, Hotz said.
"If the child has a hobby, that's another big thing. Whether they're into wrestling, Boy Scouts, hunting, fishing, NASCAR, we have books on all those hobbies," she said.
These kinds of books can make great Christmas presents.
"I have a little nephew who's 7 years old in first grade at Duncombe Elementary School, and his list is just full of books. Everything from beginning chapter books to the Guinness Book of World Records."
Parents and grandparents often come to the library looking for more information on a book their child wants, Hotz said. The librarians can show parents the book on the shelf and discuss its age-appropriate level.
The library has books on Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spiderman, just to name a few.
"There's a lot of ways to tie in watching TV with reading," Hotz said.
"Every family has different traditions. If you don't have one, it's a good time to get one started as far as what you read," she said. "It's not just 'The Night Before Christmas' - in my family it was always the story of 'Holly and Ivy.'"
Re-read Christmas cards
"A lot of times you get a Christmas card, and you open it quick to see who signed it and if there are any family photos, but you don't actually read the verse," said Hotz.
"A good thing to do is after the holidays when things slow down, maybe you take that big pile of cards out and take turns reading those cards with your child. That way they not only can learn the names of people, but they can read the verse to you on the Christmas card."
Read with extended family
Give a visiting aunt, uncle or grandparent the chance to see how well the child can read.
"Grandparents coming to visit is a great time to show off those reading skills. If they haven't seen their grandparents since summer vacation, those reading skills have really changed," said Hotz.