By Diane McCormick 

Adventure awaits with The Library’s cherished Summer Reading Challenge 2024, which runs from June 1 through Aug. 31 and features prizes, fun, and free books.  

The Summer Reading Challenge is The Library’s annual contribution to defeating the “summer slide,” showing that learning doesn’t stop when the weather warms up.   

“There’s always that summer slump between school years, and we want to encourage kids to maybe get off the screens a little bit and explore literature throughout the summer to stay engaged, to stay sharp,” said Library Youth Services Director Samantha Lowe. “Literacy is so important for their development and for all their skills in school. It’s up to The Library to incentivize kids to keep reading and to make it exciting.” 

The Summer Reading Challenge offers an engaging and accessible doorway to learning. Every format and genre, from traditional books to audiobooks, graphic novels, and comic books, counts toward the challenge.  

“It’s just reading,” Lowe said. “That’s all we ask.”  

Everyone gets a registration prize just for signing up – a mini-backpack first-aid kit for adults and teens, a flashlight key chain for teens, and a color-changing rubber duck for preschoolers. Readers can register or use their existing Beanstack accounts at  

Children and adults earn points toward incentives and great raffle prizes as they read and complete age-appropriate activities. Activities can be as simple as building a blanket fort and reading inside it or as skill-building as exploring new topics through Library databases, such as identifying bird calls using the Audubon Society Guide to North American Birds 

When children and teens earn 200 points, they get a free book. Halfway through the summer, they can earn a coveted Explore Your Community Bag.  

This ever-popular gift to families from The Library is stocked with money-saving coupons for the region’s summer fun. That includes tickets to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, vouchers for bowling at ABC North Lanes, and entrance to enriching interactive museums.  

The Library knows that summer can be busy for adults, so they can complete the challenge by earning only 30 points.  

“Reading is such a great escape,” said Lowe. “It keeps our minds active. Personal growth never stops. Books are such an accessible way to keep growing.”  

The more children, teens, and adults read, the more entries they earn for The Library’s raffle, which offers prizes such as popular Squishmallow pillows, activity baskets, and gift cards to Amazon, Old Navy, Target, and more. 

Readers can help The Library achieve a Summer Reading Challenge record of 70,000 books read and 2.4 million minutes of reading. This is a sign of the community’s support and The Library’s treasured role as a resource provider, said Lowe. 

Summer entertainment delivers amazement 

The adventure continues with the Summer Reading Challenge lineup of guest presenters.  

Kids can handle bugs, see live animals, play musical instruments, and do crafts. For teens, a special program invites introspection about mental health and grief while keeping sight on joy. (Details and registration information are available at 

Presenter Jesse Rothacker of Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary is a perennial favorite. He will bring live representatives of the “four families” of reptiles — snakes, lizards, turtles, and alligators. Daring kids can pet a snake’s tail. Others can get hands-on learning at the “touch table,” where they can handle crocodile skin, python skin, sea turtle shells, or snake skeletons.  

“People may look at a snake and assume they don’t have bones, but they can actually pick up this plastic-encased snake skeleton, and suddenly they realize, ‘Wow, these things have more bones than we do,’” said Rothacker. “We try to provide hands-on visuals so kids and adults can, instead of just remembering a fun fact, have an experience they will never forget.” 

The Super Cool Book Parade: Celebrating the joy of books  

The Super Cool Book Parade is back and better than ever, with events in Harrisburg and Halifax featuring free books for kids and teens, plus food for everyone.  

The Book Parade began in 2021, when The Library and Super Cool Book Lovers — a powerhouse cohort of literacy advocates who put diverse books in the hands of children — organized a summertime event.  

“We’re very excited about this year’s selected books,” Lowe said. They include the popular picture book, “I Am Every Good Thing,” by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, for young readers. Elementary-age readers will receive “Freewater,”by Amina Luqman-Dawson, and young adult readers will receive “We Are Not Broken,” by George M. Johnson. 

“Something I try to look for in these books is characters overcoming relatable adversity, but when that’s not the whole story,” Lowe said. “There’s also joy and love and excitement for life.” 

Other titles include Spanish-language books and those focused on diversity in multiple senses of the word, including cultural diversity, gender diversity, and neurodivergence. 

“We always say that books are windows, mirrors, and sliding-glass doors,” Lowe said. “We want kids to see themselves in the books they’re reading, and we also want them to see the world through the books they’re reading.”  

Families appreciate free dinners, too. This year, guests will enjoy treats from Munche Bagz, Kona Ice, Reign & Taij’s Homeland Lemonade, and fresh Dauphin County Technical School cookies. 

  • Halifax Super Cool Book Parade: Halifax Area Middle/High School, 3940 Peters Mountain Road, Halifax, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 5. Rain date, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 6.  
  • Harrisburg Super Cool Book Parade: The Bridge Eco Village (formerly Bishop McDevitt High School), 2200 Market Street, Harrisburg, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 12, with a rain date of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 13.