Starting Monday, children in rural Callaway County can sign up to receive books by mail over the summer.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library system runs the program for K-12 students in Auxvasse, Hallsville, Harrisburg, Hatton, Kingdom City, Mokane, New Bloomfield, Sturgeon and Williamsburg.
"We want to encourage any and all students in our area to read this summer," DBRL public relations manager Mitzi St. John said.
Participants, who must have a library card, can start signing up Monday and the first books will be mailed in late May. Once they've done the reading, children complete a re-order form and mail the books back so that they can receive the next batch. The library covers return postage.
"It's a good way to bridge the gap between when school stops and when it starts," St. John said. "They lose less of what they learn over the year when their mind is engaged in reading."
Children fill out an order sheet requesting specific books or describing what sorts of books they like and librarians mail a selection of books back. So, if a child likes mysteries but isn't sure which who-done-it to read next, the librarian can choose a book based on their taste.
"Some kids are just ready to read a certain series when school lets out," Books by Snail coordinator Erin Swearngin said. "They can pick up to five different themes of topics, like survival stories or funny stories. We also like to know the most recent book they read and really enjoyed."
If the child doesn't like one of the books, they can say so on the return sheet so that the librarian can try to find something they'll like better for the next batch.
The Books by Snail program began in 2008 with the support of grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Missouri State Library. The local library system received more funds annually until 2017.
Since then, the library has covered the cost.
"It's funded by the library — we've picked up the cost because it's been so successful over the years," Swearngin said.
The goal is to get books into the hands of children in the library's service area who might live far from a physical library.
Sign up by visiting booksbysnail.org or calling 573-817-7092. The library will also distribute paper registration forms to the schools. When schools sent students home early due to the pandemic last spring, the library wasn't able to get as many students signed up for the program.
Back in 2008, 55 children participated in Books by Snail. One year, 399 did. Now, the library is expecting 250-300.
The library will also be running a summer reading program beginning June 1. Participants can track their reading for rewards.