By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
MONROE — With noses in books and fingers crossed, children in the Sno-Isle Libraries summer reading program have chances to win shiny new bikes.
Each of the 21 libraries in the Sno-Isle system plus the Sno-Isle bookmobile will have two bikes — a boy’s and a girl’s model — as prizes in the Bikes for Books Summer Reading program.
“This is the first year” that Sno-Isle has 44 new bikes available for lucky winners, said Ken Harvey, a spokesman for the library system.
The bike giveaway had its start in 2007, thanks to the generosity of the Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge No. 160. That organization began by donating four bikes, two each year to the Sultan Library and two to the Monroe Library, as incentives for kids to read.
One lodge member, Jack Houston, was so determined to expand the program that he set a goal of providing bikes for all libraries in Sno-Isle’s system.
Houston has six grandchildren, ages 4 to 15. He has watched his wife Joanna read aloud to them. “My wife and I have passed on some of the books we enjoy. They have a good love of reading. It’s important,” said Houston, 69, who lives in Monroe. “I think they need to read something besides their cellphones and smart pads,” he added.
Houston rallied other members of the Sultan-Monroe lodge to enlist other Freemasons in Western Washington to get involved. With help from other lodges and money from 19 individual donors, the Freemasons of Washington worked with the Monroe Fred Meyer store to get bikes at reduced cost. Fred Meyer also provided storage space.
Jay Jones, manager of the Fred Meyer in Monroe, said his company worked to negotiate the reduced prices and helped the Masonic lodges with place for bike pickup.
At the Monroe Library, an official kickoff for the summer reading program is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. Shannon Dye, a children’s librarian there, said children have already started signing up for the program that 700 participated in last year. The Pacific Science Center will bring a display to Saturday’s event, Dye said.
Throughout the Sno-Isle system, 10,447 children were involved in the summer reading program in 2012, Harvey said.
To be eligible for a chance at a bike, Dye said, children must read at least 10 books. For every 10 books or 1,000 pages read, a child may enter to win a bike. “The more they read, the more chances they have for winning,” she said.
Bikes for Books, which ends Aug. 17, is for readers age 11 and younger. A separate reading program for teens has other prizes, including gift baskets.
The bikes are a big incentive, Dye said. “It’s really fun for children, when they see the bicycles on display. It really does give them a wide-eyed look on their faces. You can see the excitement,” she said.
Dye said graphic novels are popular this year, and a book called “Timmy Failure,” by Stephan Pastis, is a big hit with young readers. “There’s something for everyone,” she said.
Each bicycle winner will also get a free helmet provided by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation. “The foundation takes pride in enriching the minds of children, and we want to keep those minds safe,” Angelique Leone, the foundation’s executive director, said in a statement.
Before retiring, Houston was a sales manager in the grocery industry. He later had a second career as a long-haul truck driver. On the road, he became a fan of books on tape.
“The library has been a very big blessing for me and my wife,” Houston said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books for kids
Last year’s top 10 popular titles for children at Sno-Isle Libraries were:
“The Last Hope”
“The Adventures of Tintin: Volume 1”
“Theodore Boone: The Accused”
“Wonderstruck: a novel in words and pictures”
“Lego Ninjago, Masters of Spinjitzu. No. 2, Mask of the Sensei”
“The Adventures of Tintin: Volume 2”
“Big Nate Out Loud”
“Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star”
“Big Nate Goes for Broke”