We had a bit of a temperature drop over the weekend, but in spite of this change in the atmosphere there is one fact that’s unmistakable — summer is coming. It’s my favorite season for several reasons, including my birthday and the ability to wear skirts and dresses and lounge at the lake. I remember eagerly looking forward to summers when I was a child, too. It was my favorite season even then. Sure, the break from schoolwork probably had something to do with it, but I like to think a big part of what made summers special was the Colorado Springs Public Library’s Summer Reading Program.

I was convinced my library’s summer reading program was second to none. Ponies would come visit, we’d have gardening lessons and guest speakers would read short books or passages of longer books to pique our interest in reading new materials.

The prizes were a strong motivator for me, as well as my siblings. The library offered traditional knick-knicks and free books as minor prizes, but then reaching reading goals would allow my family and me to try activities we’d never done before, such as free tickets to ice skating or admission to the water park. Not only did summer reading programs get us out of our comfort zone for what we liked to do as a family, but also for what we liked to read.

As a child, my go-to books started with the Berenstein Bears series and eventually transitioned to Nancy Drew mysteries. I hardly deviated from these habits, but on occasion I would read a new picture book that I would enjoy, but not as much as the adventures of Brother Bear and Sister Bear.

I devoured books as a child — I do that less so as an adult sadly — so I frequently reached the minor prize goal without much effort. I think even then a part of me realized how much better a book prize was than something like a slinky, so one day I decided to choose a book as my reward. One stood out to me with an orange cover and a picture of a girl on a mountain. I asked my mom how to say the title of the book.

“’Heidi,’” she told me. “That doesn’t look like a book with a lot of pictures, though,” she cautioned.

I paused for a moment, then became more confident in my abilities as a reader and decided to give the book a try. I’m glad I did. It catapulted to the top of my list of favorite books and created a lens for me to compare all other books to. Because of summer reading programs, my eyes were opened to how great other books are, even if they have nothing in common with what you’re currently reading, or have ever read before.

Summer reading programs are a great tradition that help open our eyes to new experiences. I hope everyone reading this has had the opportunity to participate in one of these great joys of the summer, or plans to encourage someone they know to do the same.

Miranda Wilcox is the managing editor of the Anna-Melissa Tribune, the Prosper Press and the Van Alstyne Leader. Email her at mwilcox@amtrib.com.