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Suffolk races to read

The city of Suffolk is being challenged to read this January, and library staff are getting started with a community extravaganza this Saturday, weather permitting.

Suffolk Public Library is one of four libraries in Virginia and one of nearly 100 libraries globally that accepted the inaugural Beanstack Winter Reading Challenge sponsored by billionaire investor and “Shark Tank” personality Mark Cuban.

Cuban has challenged participating libraries to meet a collective goal of reading at least one million minutes and 50,000 books during the month of January, according to a press release.

Participating libraries will use Beanstack software that makes it easier to track reading habits for school and library programs.

If the goal is achieved, Cuban will donate $25,000 to First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books and other essentials to children in need. He will also donate $10,000 to top-performing libraries for their respective areas or donate to one of their local nonprofits.

Suffolk Public Library says that its goal is to read 3,000 books between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31.

If Suffolk wins, then that money will go to a local nonprofit of its choosing, according to adult program services coordinator Ashley Reed.

She said staff is working to incorporate more reading into their library programs — such as audiobooks during certain sessions — and encouraging patrons to participate on their own.

“We also have paper logs where people can write down what they’re reading at home, and we will log it online for them,” she said.

The library will hold BookApalooza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday at North Suffolk Library, 2000 Bennetts Creek Park Road. There will be a Read-A-Thon, Mad Libs, crafts and impromptu readings.

“We’ll have lots of cozy nooks for people to sit down and read, with blankets, pillows and pop-up tents,” Reed said.

Kids’ book bingo will be at 11:30 a.m. and adult book bingo at 1 p.m. A special reading of Jan Brett’s book “The Mitten” will be at 2 p.m.

Dogs from Suffolk Humane Society’s BARKS program will be there for children to read to, and authors in the Suffolk Writes group will present their original works.

“Most people don’t think of it this way, but we want them to think of reading as kind of a community event,” Reed said.

Anyone who logs books will be entered once for each book read into a drawing for a grand prize sponsored by the Friends of the Suffolk Public Library.

The winner may choose between gift certificates to Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, one-night stays at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg or Wedmore Place at the Williamsburg Winery, Busch Gardens season passes, or annual memberships to the Virginia Zoo, Children’s Museum of Virginia, the Virginia Aquarium or Planet Fitness.

Visit suffolkpubliclibrary.com/SuffolkReads or call 514-7150 for more information.