by Amanda Ong
This summer The Seattle Public Library is hosting Summer Book Bingo — a summer reading program for adults, now in its eighth year. And anyone can participate! Just pick up a bingo card at any Library location, or download one online in English or Spanish, and start reading to fill out the categories. Each bingo placement offers a different reading challenge. You can read books in five categories to achieve bingo — a line across, up, down, or diagonally — or in all 25 squares for blackout.
“[Summer Book Bingo] is for everyone — from the avid reader who wants a fun challenge to the adult who wants to reconnect with reading again,” Misha Stone, a Reader Services librarian at The Seattle Public Library, told the Emerald. “Many of us want to read more adventurously or make more time for reading in our busy lives, and every summer this program offers a communal way to make this happen. Readers choose what they want to read based on the categories, and staff are happy to help them find books to try!”
Readers have from May 18 to Sept. 6 to finish and submit their cards to enter a drawing for prizes from the Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL). The card offers a mix of fun, creative categories, while also featuring categories that celebrate the diversity of voices in their collections. This year, some new categories include “Non-Binary/Genderqueer Author or Character” and “Set South of the Equator.” Some other interesting categories are “Outside Your Comfort Zone,” “Banned or Challenged Book,” “Blue Cover,” and “Sci-Fi or Fantasy by a BIPOC Author.”
Summer Book Bingo is presented by the Library and SAL, and anyone 18 or older can read along, explore fun categories, and enter their prize drawing. Staff have also generously created some fantastic book lists for readers to find inspiration, and anyone can stop by their Seattle Public Library neighborhood branch to get recommendations from staff. You can also call 206-386-4636 during Library hours to ask for suggestions, or email or chat with staff through the library’s Ask Us service.
“I love that this program celebrates books and reading and helps adults reconnect with their reading in creative and challenging ways,” Stone said. “Adult readers deserve fun summer programs, too! Working on a program that centers adult readers and also celebrates the richness of our library’s collections and our community’s literary landscape is such a joy.”
Since its inception, the library has created over 200 reading challenges for Summer Book Bingo and garnered a number of dedicated fans. Two fans Brooke Densmore Williams and Erin Okuno started a year-round Book Bingo group on Facebook that centers books by traditionally marginalized authors.
“Book Bingo has made me love reading even more, and has introduced me to new genres/formats/authors (romance, speculative fiction, graphic memoir, audiobooks, to name a few), as well as fellow readers,” Densmore Williams said. “I was already a fan before the pandemic, but Book Bingo was a lifeline for several of us in 2020.”
Furthermore, all reading counts. Audiobooks, children’s books, young adult books — all can fit into the reading categories. The emphasis is on encouraging adults to read and discover new books together that they will enjoy. This year, the library is also trying to boost Spanish Summer Book Bingo participation and are working on a separate prize drawing for Spanish readers that is coming soon.
“I love Summer Book Bingo,” Okuno said. “A few years ago I stopped taking it super seriously and started having more fun with it — including children’s books that spark interest, cookbooks, etc. I also like swapping titles and researching new books and authors to round out the bingo board.”
Stone says her favorite part of Summer Book Bingo is this — the outpourings of excitement and joy from readers. Especially during the pandemic, many readers sent messages to the library saying that Summer Book Bingo gave them a chance for escapism, hope, connection to friends, and something to look forward to amid the gloom of the pandemic.
“As a librarian who focuses on readers’ advisory, aka the art of helping readers find the next book they will enjoy, Summer Book Bingo is close to my heart,” Stone said. “Every year I discover something new by pushing myself to read outside of my comfort zones, to read genres I don’t typically gravitate to, and to read more books by diverse authors, and every year I find so many incredible gems that I might not have otherwise. Readers enthusiastically share the surprise and wonder in their Book Bingo discoveries every year — and their sharing underscores the importance of this program for our patrons and community.”
You can submit your completed Summer Book Bingo card by dropping off your card, or a copy, at any branch of The Seattle Public Library, emailing an image of the front and back of your card to email@example.com, or posting a photo of the front of your card to Facebook, Twitter (@SeaArtsLectures, @SPLBuzz), or Instagram (@seattleartsandlectures, @SeattlePublicLibrary). Be sure to tag #BookBingoNW2022.
The Seattle Public Library also hosts a summer program for kids and teens, the Summer of Learning program. This is their second year of support from the Friends of The Seattle Public Library, which donated the independent book store gift certificates for the prize drawing for Book Bingo finishers.
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Summer Book Bingo card illustration by Jorge Villavicencio, a first-generation American who grew up in Washington State with familial roots in Oaxaca, Mexico. You can find Jorge’s murals in San Diego, California, and Everett, Washington. Image courtesy of The Seattle Public Library.
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