Reading Pays is a program offered by the Pueblo City-County Library District to Pueblo County youth ages 0-17. This program allows area youth the opportunity to earn $100 by checking out 10 items from the library and providing a response about one, all or some of the items borrowed. The program will be broken down into three phases, one in June, one in July and one in August, and is limited to 3,000 participants per month, for a total of up to 9,000 participants.

This program was initially proposed by Pueblo Mayor, Nick Gradisar. Mayor Gradisar wanted this program to be the first American Rescue Plan Act funds spent in our community. He proposed this program to library administration and together worked with the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners to provide this opportunity to community members (and library locations) outside of our city limits. The City and County of Pueblo each allocated $500,000 to this project to ensure $1 million in funding. An intergovernmental agreement was accepted by both branches of local government and the intention of these funds are to help mitigate education losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, keep youth engaged during the summer, provide direct payments to children to stimulate the economy, and provide financial literacy opportunities.

The $100 payments will be dispersed by local bank, Bank of the San Juans.  Program participants may choose to receive cash, add funds to an existing account through Bank of the San Juans, or create a new savings account.  Registrants who choose to begin a savings account with Bank of the San Juans will be eligible to earn an additional $10 if they save at least $50 in their savings account for 6 months.

The program goals for Reading Pays are:

  • Increase youth literacy
  • Incentivize youth savings
  • Stimulate local economy

This is the first time our library district has offered this program, and there is the possibility that through effective evaluation and a showcase of successes, especially in regards to the ways the program benefited our community, we may be invited to offer this program again next year.

Evaluation questions and methods:

  1. To what extent do participants identify as a reader after completing the Reading Pays program? (participant focus groups, parent/guardian survey)
  2. To what extent did participants develop a better understanding about making choices with money after completing the Reading Pays program? (participant focus groups, parent/guardian survey)
  3. Do participants have a stronger ability to find books, information, or other community resources that is useful and necessary to help in their lives? (participant focus groups, parent/guardian survey)