With relish, youngsters at Locke Branch Library tucked into some seasonal treats -- hot dogs, chips, and ice cream sundaes -- as they celebrated the final chapter in the 2011 reading club.
Across Lucas County, about 19,000 people, including adults, teens, grade-school kids, and babies, participated in the nine-week program at the Locke library on Miami Street in East Toledo, and about 400 area residents took part in the reading club.
For some 70 years, the summer reading club has been a tradition in Ohio, Mary Kinkus, Locke Branch Library manager, said. In the early years, children had to give oral summaries to librarians of books read, but those days are long gone, she said.
Now participants track their reading, by number of books or by minutes, and they visit libraries to collect prizes.
At Locke, Dan Matuszewski of Rossford was among volunteers who registered readers and handed out incentive prizes.
"I think it's an excellent program," Mr. Matuszewski, 86, said.
He was surprised by a new reading club group this year, Read to Me, in which parents read to their babies or toddlers. As a tutor at nearby Oakdale School, he said he knows how important it is for young children to develop reading skills. "If a mom reads to her baby, the baby gets a foothold in reading," he said.
Maliesha Gillespie of East Toledo read to her 18-month-old son Elijah in the Read to Me program, and they participated in various activities, such as reading for 30 days in a row.
"He loves all the books," she said. Just the other day, she said, when her daughter, Bethany, 6, a summer book club member, sat down to read, Elijah grabbed a book, hiked himself onto the couch next to his sister, and leafed through the pages.
"He looked just like he was reading. Reading to him does make a difference. He wants to be part of reading too," Elijah's mom said.
Her sister, Danielle Webster of East Toledo, brought five children each week to the summer reading club activities at Locke, including her son Charles Avalos, 7, and her daughter, Alayna Avalos, 6, and Tonya Boyer's twin sons, Jacob and Jackson, 8, who all attended the finale last week.
"The library does a good program. It keeps kids reading during the summer," Ms. Webster said.
Heads turned and ears perked up when her son Charles talked about the summer reading club's value. "Reading in the summer is fun. Reading is good for you. You get a lot of knowledge from it," the 7-year-old said.
As a large room at the Locke library filled with reading club members, volunteers Adam Grassel, 21; Shannon Fitzgerald, 16; Chelsea Rose, 18, and Susie LeGree, 18, all of East Toledo, filled buns with hot dogs and offered chips and other snacks to the crowd.
Later, they helped youngsters make ice cream sundaes, complete with chocolate sauce, strawberry topping, and sprinkles.
Miss LeGree said she has been a library volunteer since she was 15. "I love books. I'm pretty much at the library all the time."
She particularly likes to help with the summer-reading club. "I like to see them read books. They get prizes and that makes them want to read more," she said, adding summer reading keeps reading skills sharp. "Even if they are not in school, it is good for them to read books and to do something educational."
Miss Rose's sister Bailey Gross, who will be a fourth-grader this fall, said Bailey was the top reader in her class last year. She's always reading, she said.
Nakiya Peters, 10, of East Toledo, who likes to read the American Girl titles, signed up for the program because she has a keen interest in books. Picking out incentive prizes from a treasure chest was an added bonus, she said.
As she finished her sundae, Amber Cornelison, 7, of East Toledo, said she had a good time reading during the summer. Her father, John Cornelison, said "reading is one of her favorite things to do," and she regularly checks out books by the bagful.
Seated nearby were sisters Sage Clark, 16, and 11-year-old twins, Alyssa and Elise Clark, who visit the library often. The twins like reading preteen magazines, their mother, Josie Hughes, said. Other readers in the family are her son, Jeremy Clark, 14, and her daughter Justine Clark, 12, all of East Toledo.
"I let them walk to the library. The younger ones have to walk in a group," Mrs. Hughes said.
Several other teens and preteens at the end-of-summer-reading-club program said they walk or ride their bikes to the neighborhood library.
Locke participants in the reading clubs included 75 adults; 125 teens, and 200 grade-school aged children.