Jackson County libraries have kicked off their summer reading programs for children, teens and adults. These programs, which run until Aug. 4, are an annual tradition for our family. While the activities are fun, my sons insist on signing up every summer because they want the prizes.

Jackson County libraries have kicked off their summer reading programs for children, teens and adults. These programs, which run until Aug. 4, are an annual tradition for our family. While the activities are fun, my sons insist on signing up every summer because they want the prizes.

They especially covet that coupon for a free kids' meal at Hometown Buffet that you get after reading 10 books, and are thrilled by the free gently used books and chances to win other items such as a T-shirt or $20 gift certificate to Treehouse Books.

Children's librarian Margie Cicerrella says she's pleased that the prizes motivate kids. "The idea is just to keep kids reading through the summer," she says. "Teachers know which students haven't read all summer. Reading is like riding a skateboard. If you don't do it for a while, you're a little rocky at first. You have to practice."

This year's themes focus on the night, the pleasure of bedtime reading and story-inspired dreams. The children's theme is "Dream Big," and library activities will include making dream catchers and learning about owls and bats. Additionally, there are art activities, a puppet show and rhythm storytelling, an interactive story time during which kids use percussion instruments to punctuate folktales told by storyteller Pat Aulik.

For 2012, the children's library added a family activity component. Families are given a form to record completing certain activities together, such as telling a story and writing it down or doing a puzzle together. Afterward, they can turn in the form for a free mini pizza at Papa Murphy's.

Even babies can get in on the action, as parents who read to their infants or toddlers can receive a gift book, a signed certificate and a bookmark. Cicerrella says the library wanted to emphasize that reading is about total communication.

"So many factors go into learning to read: speaking, listening, interacting with one another," she says. "It all works together."

The teen theme is "Own the Night." Teens are encouraged not only to read, but to write reviews of the books. The library will post their reviews and enter the reviewers' names into a drawing for prizes, including a Kindle E-Touch Reader. Teen activities include creating tin can lanterns and Frankentoys (imagine Barbie's head on a Garfield plush toy body) as well as a photo-shoot and video and board game nights.

"We get a lot of kids participating, maybe 85 to 100 teens reading, writing, and visiting our Facebook fan page," says teen librarian Ester Mortenson. "They have a good time."

After my kids signed up for the children's program, I told reference librarian Amy Kinard that I wanted to do the adult program. Kinard says that happens a lot.

"Parents sign up their kids and then decide they may as well do it, too. Besides, it's great to share a reading goal with your kids," she says.

"It's just fun. We're going to keep people reading all summer."

After reading four books, adults participating in the "Between the Covers" program are entered in a drawing to win a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of their choice.

My older son, the math whiz, suspects that grown-ups have stacked the deck in their favor.

"You only have to read four books to maybe win a $50 certificate, but kids have to read 10 for a $20 certificate?" he asked incredulously.

"That's right," I said.

Sometimes, it's good to be a grown-up.

For information about the program and related activities, visit www.JCLS.org or call 541-774-6996.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.