TOWNSEND — Before children returned to their desks and blackboards, the Townsend Public Library offered them a chance to take a walk on the wild side with its Wild Reads summer reading program.
Preschoolers through fifth graders were invited to read whichever books they chose, including any assigned reading from school, and report the amount of time they spent reading to the library. Every week, three participants were selected at random to receive a prize, for a total of 21 winners as well as two grand prize winners selected at the program’s end.
According to children’s librarian Stacy Schuttler, 160 local youths participated in the six-week contest, all hoping to win Webkinz — small, stuffed animals (including snakes, reindeer, frogs and dragons) made by the Ganz Company. Webkinz have interactive, educational online profiles, much like having a digital pet.
“There was a lot of excitement,” she said. “Kids spent over 66,000 minutes reading.”
Every 100 minutes that was reported gave participants a chance to win a Webkin, be it at the library or, for the first time ever, online.
“Most were actively using the program,” Schuttler noted.
While the program came from the Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing (C/WMARS) network, to which the Townsend Public Library subscribes, the ideas for the prizes came from the library staff and through generous donations from Evan’s and the Friends of the Library, who supplied the Webkinz.
The two grand prizes — won by students Katie Mayer and Ian Corn — were donated gift certificates for the Brick Steamer Restaurant and Toadstool Books in nearby Milford, N.H., respectively.
Schuttler added that the library had worked in conjunction with the school library on the program, meaning that participants can also show their reading to their teachers at the start of the school year for any extra credit that might be available.
The complete list of Webkinz winners is as follows: Katie Goguen, Rachel Guerriero, Sophie Lovis, Christopher Sontag, Chloe Wespiser, Sarah Dorman, Myranda Robichaud, Elizabeth Urda, Ashley Grant, Jessica Borst, Allison French, Melissa Genoter, Anna Pothier, Ryan Benson, Kaitlyn Baker, Sophia Cuttrona, Sarah Coffey, Tim Coffey, Paige Engler, Shannon Luongo and Sarah Ward.
For more information about the Townsend Public Library, visit www.townsendlibrary.org. For more information about Wild Reads, visit www.readsinma.org/townsend.