Go for the Gold! – Adult Winter Reading Program

I do not yet work in a public library.  But someday, when I do, I want to make sure that the library offers reading programs for adults.  Even the small public library I worked at in high school had a children’s summer reading program, but nothing for adults.  If the children get the summer, the adults can have the winter.

Olympic-Themed Adult Winter Reading Program

Because 2014 is a year for Winter Olympics (my favorite), I thought it would be neat to plan a Winter Reading Program based loosely on the Olympics.  I looked at several different adult winter reading programs that libraries around the country offer (which I will list below) to come up with an idea that would work with an Olympic theme.  Here is the video promo I created for the program:

The Reading Challenges for the Winter Reading Program

The San Luis Obispo County Library hosted an Adult Winter Reading Program in 2013 that required participants to complete 8 different reading accomplishments and watch a DVD in order to win a prize.  I liked that their challenges required participants to go outside their comfort zones at least a little bit and explored multiple areas of the collection.  They even called it a bit like a scavenger hunt, which is fun, too.  I used some of their challenges and adapted others to create some new ones:

  1. Read one of the books that was on the New York Times bestseller list December 22, 2013 (which would be the list just after the official start of winter).
  2. Read a fiction or non-fiction book with an animal in the title.
  3. Watch a DVD and then listen to the movie soundtrack.
  4. Read a non-fiction book dealing with music, conspiracies, or travel.
  5. Listen to or read a book published in 2011 or later on audiobook or e-book format.
  6. Read a fiction or non-fiction book set in or about a particular season.
  7. Read a collection of short stories.
  8. Read a book written by a Russian or Eastern European author.
  9. Read a fiction or non-fiction book set in the 18th century.
  10. Attend a program from the approved list of programs.

Earning Olympic reading medals

Unlike the San Luis Obispo County Library, my Adult Winter Reading Program does not require everyone to complete all the challenges in order to compete for prizes.  To fit with the Olympic theme, readers can earn medals based on the number of challenges they complete.

  • Bronze medal – To win a bronze medal, participants must complete 5 of the reading challenges
  • Silver medal – To win a silver medal, participants must complete 8 of the reading challenges
  • Gold medal – To win a gold medal, participants must complete all 10 reading challenges


Like all good competitions, there must be prizes!  It would be really neat to create merchandise specifically for this program, like cups, pens/pencils, magnets, post-it notes, tote bags, T-shirts and the like that had a fun Olympic-y logo.  However, that can be very expensive and library budgets are suffering.

Instead, this would be a good opportunity to connect with local businesses and try to garner donations in the form of gift cards or other free merchandise.  It is good for them because it gets their name out and it is good for the library because it gives them prizes.

Other Adult Public Library Winter Reading Programs

  • The Normal Public Library Adult Winter Reading Program has adults log how many minutes they spend reading.  I like that parents reading to their children can count towards their minutes spent reading.
  • Since 2009, the Kansas City Public Library has been hosting a themed Adult Winter Reading Program to “encourage leisure reading among adults.”  I like that they encourage people to read beyond their comfort zone and promote potentially overlooked books.  They provide suggested reading lists that support the theme such as:
  • While the City Sleeps entices readers to explore fiction and nonfiction, the interplay of light and dark, the shadows of the human soul and the brightness of the human spirit.

  • The Timberland Regional Library Adult Winter Reading Program from 2013 had several grand prizes which participants could win.  Every time participants finished five books and completed the reading program form, they were entered to win a grand prize.  I like that readers can enter more than once if they have read an additional five books.
  • The Marion County Public Library System hosted a “Let it Snow” Adult Reading Program.  Participants who finish at least one book and submit their reading log are eligible to win a “Literary Latte” basket.  The library also encourage participants to come in on Tuesday mornings for coffee, tea, and treats to discuss what they are reading with other readers.  They also offer help with e-readers during that time (and I’m sure at other times, too).  I like the social aspect included in this program.
  • The Monroe County Public Library combines adults and teens together in one Winter Reading Program.  There are winners drawn for weekly prizes as well as drawings for grand prizes at the end of the program.  I like the weekly drawings because it probably keeps the momentum going for some people.

For even more ideas, be sure to check out these other library winter reading programs:

Does your library do an Adult Winter Reading Program?

If so, how is it set up?  What do you require of your readers?  What has been most successful (or not) for your particular library?  Do you know why something did or did not work?  Share your stories in the comments below.


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