January 31st at 12:01 a.m. was a victorious moment for Keene Memorial Library and all the readers who participated in the Winter Reading Challenge.

In total, we logged 1,695,434 minutes and Lincoln City Libraries logged just over 1,500,000. We won by more than 100,000 minutes!

That is more reading than we ever could have expected. Our readers averaged 38 hours per person. The individual who read the most minutes was Judi K. with 13,020 minutes (or 217 hours) and Mrs. Rasmussen’s 3rd grade class at Linden logged the most group minutes with 255,093 minutes (or 217 hours).

I can’t thank everyone enough for taking the time each day to log their minutes in Beanstack and for participating in our first ever Winter Reading Challenge. We honestly did not expect this kind of turnout, but we are pleasantly surprised that so many groups and individuals stepped up to the challenge and not only blew away our original goal of 250,000 minutes but got more than 6 times that amount.

As Lincoln was 1 of only 3 Nebraska libraries participating and we saw how close we were to them, we decided to make it a challenge to see if we could beat the capital city. Our little town of about 25,000 stepped up and blew right by Lincoln, a city with a population of over 250,000 people.

It is not just about the minutes we logged, but it is also about the literacy and learning that took place through the month of January. Even if one child read an extra book in January or one classroom took an extra 15 minutes a week to log more minutes, increased reading is just a win-win for our community members and the library. Just like the Summer Reading Program, we challenge individuals to read more and build on their literacy skills because literacy is so important to the success of our community. These minutes spent reading can make an impact on each and every reader for the rest of their lives.

We have met Mark Cuban’s challenge of reading 1.3 million minutes during the month of January and now we wait to find out where we stand with the rest of the country and who is going to win the grand prizes. Mark Cuban pledged to donate $25,000 to First Book and to provide $10,000 for the top-performing libraries to donate to a nonprofit of their choice. If we win the $10,000 we plan to donate the money to our Friends of the Library nonprofit group to provide resources for our library.

We hope to take this momentum into the Summer Reading Program that starts in just a few months. As many of you know, the summer tends to take up kids’ time with sports and outside activities. We make the Summer Reading Program one of our top priorities to try and offset that change in environment and encourage kids to read even in non-school months.

Tina Walker is Director of Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.