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Amanda Vance has an inkling about why so many of her library patrons are racking up more reading hours this winter.

It’s the bookmarks.

“People have found the (SPARK) program through our bookmarks more than anything else,” said Vance, the Waynedale Allen County Public Library branch General Manager. She said more and more of her location’s users have been finding out about the program from seeing its logo on colorfully-designed bookmarks the library has on display near its front desk, “mostly because they’re so cool-looking.”

The popular library program, which rewards participants for all the time they spend with their noses buried in a book this winter, already has logged more than 500,000 reading hours.

The Allen Country Public Library’s Winter SPARK program (which stands for Science, Play, Arts, Reading and Knowledge), is heading into its second year, joining the prevalent summer SPARK program which has helped local readers track their reading time for the last few years.

“It really just started in response to customers who wanted to track their reading time,” said Marra Honeywell, Youth Services Manager for the Allen County Public Library. “That’s why we began a winter program to compliment the very popular summer program.”

Readers interested in tracking their reading time either can do it manually with a pencil and the library’s bookmark, use the library’s website, at www.acpl.org, or use an app provided by Beanstack, which is available on the Apple App Store, or on Google Play.

For online users, each hour spent reading earns them a digital badge, and each badge earned enters them into a prize drawing held at the end of the program – this year, at the end of January. This is the first year readers have been able to log their hours online, said Vance.

Prizes include a variety of gift cards, good for everything from meals at local restaurants to free pizza. Other gifts may be purses or music lessons, Honeywell said.

So far this month, according to Vance, readers have logged about 549,500 hours reading, breaking its goal of 500,000 reading hours for January.

And that, says Honeywell, really is the whole point of SPARK.

“We really want to encourage people to set and achieve their reading goals,” she said. “And this program is just trying to set that motivation.”

Michael Morrissey

Michael Morrissey

Michael is a professional writer and journalist. He attended South Side High School and Northwestern University. He has written for newspapers in Michigan City, Indiana; Pekin, Illinois; and Bradenton, Florida. He also has written for and edited websites in Florida and San Francisco, California. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer