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Summer reading creates new opportunities online

While the virtual world wasn’t the destination in mind when Destination Imagination launched as the 2020 EPL Summer Reading Challenge, it turned out to be just right for this unique summer.

Returning readers and new challenge fans alike were excited about the addition of the Beanstack app to track reading days, rewards, and prize entries. For parents, the challenge was a great way for students to continue the remote learning concept. 

“I used it to kind of homeschool them and keep them up on their reading skills so they wouldn’t be so far behind next school year,” says Brenda Hunsberger, whose great-nieces – 11-year-old Olivia and 10-year-old Brenda – participated.

“It was a nice filler since we didn’t have school,” says Jenica Fry, mom to Noelle, 8, Cecelia, 5, and Natalya, 1.

Using Beanstack proved easy for parents and kids alike, Fry says, keeping young readers engaged by acquiring reward badges and seeing daily movement toward their goals.

“The app is great. It shows you your progress and shows where you’re at,” she says. “It gave them a visual of where they were at with their daily reading on the calendar.”

Readers could use Beanstack or keep track of accomplishments on traditional game boards picked up at the library. The app provided access to special activities, challenging readers to get hands on in creative ways or explore their community and computer. 

Badges were earned with every reading day and activity completed. At the milestone of three weeks of reading, participants began earning tickets for prize drawings.

Hunsberger says the app gave her girls the satisfaction of seeing their achievements right away.

“They could get the instant gratification of seeing their consecutive days and earning that next badge,” she says, which helped to keep them going throughout the challenge.

“They could do the challenge and post it and see the badge that would show up. Every now and then, there was a reward that would show up behind it. They really liked that,” Hunsberger says. 

The activities occupied them, too, since people were largely at home throughout the summer, she says.

“We planted a garden, did science projects, we researched birds, went on walks. There was a lot (to do in Beanstack). With the shutdown, we couldn’t go very many places so it was good to have that variety for them,” says Hunsberger.

Both Fry’s and Hunsberger’s youngsters ended up winning big during EPL’s Prize Patrol, a parade held with Summer Reading Challenge partner Froggy 102.7 FM. A caravan of vehicles delivered prizes right to the winners’ homes.

“The parade was really cool at the end,” says Fry. “I hope that continues.”

With the support of Welch Packaging, Elkhart Public Library is able to produce the summer challenge and offer a grand prize. Gabriela Prieto, 12, was this year’s winner, receiving an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Universal Studios. 

“I kind of thought I might win like a $15 gift card or something I didn’t expect to win it all,” says Prieto, who hopes to travel on spring break 2021.

Gabriela says winning was great, but participating in the Summer Reading Challenge has given her a newfound love of reading.

“It’s motivated me to read more and it prepared me for eighth grade,” she says. “It was kind of fun.”