Patron’s perspectives: Summer Reading 2020

Young volunteer, holding sign for Summer Reading
Multnomah County Library knew COVID-19-related protocols would mean the look, feel and interaction of the 2020 Summer Reading program would be different this year. And it was. But the program was as enthusiastically received as in pre-pandemic years.

The Summer Reading program’s expansive reach is made possible thanks to the The Library Foundation, which last year helped the library connect with more than 145,000 children and adults. Gifts to The Library Foundation support programs, books, and literacy initiatives.

Some of the Summer Reading program’s success in this summer-like-no-other was reflected on Beanstack, the online reading engagement software that gave readers the flexibility to play the Summer Reading game entirely online. And some was thanks to virtual programs such as the popular weekly Science Explorers Club with artist and educator Jess Graff, Clownin' Around with Nikki Brown Clown, and Comedia para los Niños with Angel Ocasio.

In addition, library outreach services staff took Summer Reading to:

  • Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center, where 14 teens successfully completed it;
  • 545 students, from kindergarten through high school, in the Migrant Ed program of Multnomah Education Service District;
  • 3,200 children at 168 childcare sites.

And, there’s more good news. Take a look at the numbers for Summer Reading 2020, and read about feelings shared by youth, parents and staff.

Sign on tree trunk about Summer Reading 2020

9,041: readers that successfully completed the Summer Reading program.

  • “My kids received a bundle of books, which really energized them again to read. The days following, they read for hours a day!” - Sarah
  • “I want to wholeheartedly thank the library for continuing the Summer Reading Program this year. My eight-year-old daughter received a manilla envelope a few days ago with four books in it and an OBOB book mark, with a note saying she won the Level 1 Book Bundle. She was elated! After a hard summer, it absolutely lifted her spirits, made her feel proud of her reading, and introduced her to books she may not have chosen herself. She dove right into reading them. Thank you for the time and effort to continue the prizes and send the books. Such a treat!” - Emily
  • “My five-year-old received his prize of books in the mail yesterday and he was clutching the package with his feet while opening it, all the while singing, “I can’t wait to read! I can’t wait to read!” He and his little brother were just delighted to have earned the books. I can’t thank you all enough." - Alison


35,472: number of days read (at least) by youth who finished the Summer Reading program.

  • “My son was so excited to log his reading on the iPad and see what badges he would earn. Usually getting him to read to himself is a challenge, but he really enjoyed the contest aspect and never argued about it, which is kind of a miracle. Thank you!” - Gina
  • “My child is only two-and-a-half, but it has given us some routine and something to look forward to every day. He gets to pick out the books and turn the pages. I love watching his recognition grow as we repeat his favorites or discover new ones.” - Jackie
  • “My daughter was so engaged with it!! She was all the time asking me to log her books and hours after reading.”
  • “I appreciate seeing how much I am reading each day. I read a lot anyway, but tracking it is satisfying. I also appreciate learning more about the library.”

Summer Reading volunteer with cardtable with books and sign on sidewalk promoting Summer Reading

11,569: purchased books as prizes; plus, an additional 4,504 prize bundles.

  • “With COVID, we have exhausted our own books, and being able to place books on hold, pick them up and have the excitement of a game with badges and prizes really added something needed where so many other things have been cancelled.” - Diane
  • “We really appreciate your efforts to promote reading during this pandemic. Having access to e-books, audiobooks, library holds, and the summer reading club have made an enormous difference to our family. Without these programs, we would not have been able to afford keeping our children stocked with books during the pandemic. Thank you for all you do!” - Leah
  • “My daughter is an avid reader. This is a program she looks forward to every summer. This summer the program was especially meaningful to us. With so many of our typical summer plans put on hold, this program proved to be the one constant - the one piece that felt like summer as usual. We appreciate all that you've done this year (and in years past) to make this program happen. Thank you for encouraging and celebrating readers!”
  • “My kiddo has been missing daily trips to the library, so this made us feel more connected. She LOVES getting a t-shirt each year and was so thrilled for the one this year. She also got lucky and won a midway raffle prize of three new books, which made her month! Thank you.” - Liz


Before the pandemic, the Summer Reading program attracted hundreds of volunteers, mostly youth, who would donate thousands of hours of time and help run the program throughout the summer. Even with library buildings closed, the library had 220 volunteers this year, primarily ages 10-19, who helped to promote the program remotely within their communities. "I am happy that the library is able to adapt and still have this program even through a pandemic." - Summer Reading 2020 volunteer

That closes this chapter of the Summer Reading Program. See you in summer 2021 — and keep reading!