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Reading Pays more than $700,000 to young readers

PUEBLO, Colo. – Reading Pays dividends for Pueblo county kids. Young readers earned more than $700,000 during the Pueblo City-County Library District’s $1 million summer reading challenge.

A total of 7,074 kids earned $100 by the challenge’s end on Sept. 22. To successfully complete the challenge, registrants, ranging in age from 0 to 17, were required to check out 10 library materials then submit a response to what they borrowed. As part of a special school outreach program, an additional 356 kids completed the challenge twice, earning them a gift bag filled with an age appropriate book and gift certificates to Cold Stone Creamery, Applebees and the Pueblo Ice Arena.

“Pueblo City-County Libraries are pleased to have offered our community's youth a special summer reading experience earlier this year. The Reading Pays: Pueblo $1 Million Reading Challenge awarded well over 7,000 young people $100 each for their reading achievements this past summer.  I know that kids who read succeed and I feel certain that our local young people have been positively impacted with these great reading outcomes during the summer of 2021,” Jon Walker, PCCLD executive director said.

As the program progressed, library officials noticed that kids living in higher income zip codes completed the program at higher rates. So starting in August, students living in lower to moderate income zip code areas were auto-enrolled into Reading Pays. Twenty-two schools in both Pueblo City School District 60 and Pueblo County School District 70 as well as private and charter schools added Reading Pays into their curriculum, ensuring that those students have the opportunity to earn their $100 as well as to reengage or, in some cases, to introduce them to the library district’s resources.

A total of 2,178 students completed the September cohort. Among them were students enrolled at District 70’s South Mesa Elementary. The school recorded a 100 percent finishing rate, with all 322 students successfully completing. Officials from Pueblo County, District 70 and the library will give the students their $100 vouchers or gift bags during an assembly, at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25 at South Mesa Elementary, 23701 Preston Rd.

Community engagement with the library district increased as well. Registrants checked out more than 70,000 library items during a four-month span. Overall circulation increased 50 percent during June and July as compared to those same months in 2020. There was also a 66 percent increase in new library card issued during May, June, July and August, than were issued in all of 2019.

“Programs like Reading Pays or Summer Reading help children to stay engaged over the summer and keep them prepared while they are out of school. It is the goal of these programs to help children identify as readers and see reading as a treat and not a chore. Reading Pays allowed us to make this summer exceptionally exciting by offering $100. It was the goal of this program to get kids excited to read, I truly believe it did its job,” Nick Potter, director of Community Relations and Development said. 

The $1 million funding for Reading Pays is part of the American Rescue Plan to help Pueblo rebound from the effects of COVID-19. All funds will directly impact area youth, the library district will not keep any of the funds for administrative fees. Registrants opting to open a savings account with Bank of the San Juans will receive an additional $10, so long as their account maintains a $50 balance during the next six months. Unused funds will be returned to the City and County of Pueblo, as required by an inter-governmental agreement.

Community partners in the Reading Pays program include the city and county of Pueblo, the library district, Bank of the San Juans and EPIC of Pueblo.

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Reading Pays, by the numbers:

June 1- Sept. 22


Total Completions: 7,430

One-time finishers (eligible for the $100): 7,074; $707,400 awarded

Two-time finishers (not eligible for $100 but received books and prizes): 356



New library cards issued during May, June, July and August: 66% increase

New library cards issued during the summer months of 2021 (May, June, July, August) over what were issued pre-pandemic in 2019

Library checkouts: 74,300

7,430 participants checking out 10 materials each


School Outreach- D60, D70, private and charter schools

Total Registration: 7,011

Total Completion: 2,178

Participating Schools:

Avondale Elementary School

Bessemer Elementary School

Bradford Elementary School

César Chávez Academy

Columbian Elementary School

Dolores Huerta Preparatory Academy

Eva R. Baca Elementary School

Franklin School of Innovation

Irving Elementary School

St. John Neumann Catholic School

Liberty Point International School

North Mesa Elementary School

Minnequa Elementary School 

Parkhill Christian Academy

Park View Elementary School

Prairie Winds Elementary School

Rye Elementary

South Mesa Elementary School

St. Therese Catholic School

Villa Bella Expeditionary School

Vineland Elementary School



Breakdown by demographics

White: 43%

Hispanic/Latino/a: 39%

Wished not to report: 9%

Black/African American: 4%

Asian: 1%

American Indian/Alaskan Native: less than 1%

Pacific Islander/Hawaiian: less than 1%


Breakdown by zip code

81007 (Pueblo West): 24%

81005 (Pueblo's Southside): 18%

81001 (Pueblo's North and Eastside): 17%

81004 (Pueblo's southside mainly Mesa Junction, Minnequa, Bessemer): 14%

81006 (Mesa area, Blende, Vineland): 8%

81008 (Northside, Eagleridge, Country Club): 7%

81003 (Downtown and parts of East Side): 7%