The county could soon reach a goal of 500,000 minutes of reading time.

For the month of January, readers across Frederick County have been logging their minutes as a part of a nationwide contest that Frederick County Public Libraries (FCPL) is participating in called the “Winter Reading Challenge.”

As of Friday, FCPL had 1,876 registered participants who had collectively read for 434,316 minutes.

Janet Vogel, youth services manager for FCPL, said she has no doubt the county will reach its goal by the end of the month.

The program, which is sponsored by a company called Beanstack, is the first winter season reading program FCPL has held.

Vogel said that while the library system has always done a summer reading challenge, readers have always asked to have another challenge during the year.

Vogel said FCPL decided to test-run the Beanstack challenge this year because it offered a unique way to partner with Frederick County Public Schools. FCPL is one of the few library systems in the country participating in and running the program.

“[It allowed] students to link their public library and school library accounts and so we thought ... that would be a great opportunity,” Vogel said. “We’re really excited to be on the forefront of this.”

The program is not only open to students but all ages. Users log their minutes either online or through an app by scanning their book’s barcode and entering the amount of time they read.

Vogel said the goal is to have every participant read 500 minutes by the end of January which equates to about 15 minutes a day. The countywide goal is 500,000 minutes.

Users who complete 500 minutes will automatically be entered into a drawing at the end of the month that will select one reader from each FCPL branch to receive a prize.

If the entire system meets its 500,000-minute goal, FCPL has a chance to win free books and author visits from publishing company Penguin Random House.

“Not only do we want people to meet their own individual reading goals and kick off the new year with a strong start with reading more books but we also want to encourage our community goal,” Vogel said.

The 500,000-minute goal has already been partially covered by Middletown Primary School, whose students as of Friday, had collectively read a total of 117,000 minutes.

Kelsey Van Hook, a second-grade teacher at Middletown Primary, has been encouraging her students to read and helping them log their minutes in class.

She said the challenge has changed student’s perspectives on reading.

“There’s definitely been more buzz about reading and kids talking to each other about books,” Van Hook said.

Maya Brohawn, 8, a student in Van Hook’s class, said the challenge has helped her in many ways.

“Before we started doing this challenge I didn’t read a lot, so now it’s helping me read a lot and it’s helping me with my words,” Maya said.

Felix Smith, 8, had similar thoughts about reading.

“I like that it has a lot of details in it and it helps you get smart,” he said.

In addition to the incentive of meeting a numeric goal, Van Hook said the school is also giving prizes to students and classes who rack up minutes, such as ice cream parties and the chance to be principal for a day.

Riley Paulner, 7, said although she liked the incentives it wasn’t her favorite part of reading for the challenge.

“It’s always just all peace and quiet and you get to read whatever kind of book you want,” she said.

Vogel said that not only have they seen success with students, but with families of students, who hear about the program through their child’s school.

“What we’re finding is ... the kids who have heard about it at school they’re coming home and telling their families about it and then the whole family is able to participate,” Vogel said.

Such is the case with the Mongan family — John and Betsy Mongan and their five children are all participating.

Betsy Mongan said the family has participated in the summer reading challenge for years and thought the Winter challenge would be perfect to join.

“We just love reading. ... It’s always something that has come naturally to us,” Mongan said.

The biggest impact it’s had has been with her 8-year-old son, Zachary, who before the challenge “absolutely hated” to read, Mongan said.

Zachary is so far the only member of the family who has hit the 500-minute goal.

“I don’t know if he just wanted to beat his siblings, but he has loved it,” Mongan said.

Vogel said this is the exact impact FCPL hoped to have with the program.

“What is really exciting for us is ... people who are participating in this program are really getting into it,” Vogel said. “It’s a great way to get everybody excited about reading.”

The challenge will not end until Jan. 31, and those interested can still visit the FCPL website, register for an account and begin logging minutes.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

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