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Summer Reading at New York Libraries

Celebrate Smokey’s 80th Birthday by joining the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge

Blue banner with illustration of Smokey Bear. Text overlay: Smokey Bear Reading Challenge: Celebrate Smokey's 80th Birthday

Celebrate Smokey’s 80th Birthday by joining the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge! This challenge is meant to engage youth in reading about wildfire prevention, forests, and natural resource careers while they explore their local environment. It is also designed to complement the 2024 Collaborative Summer Reading Program theme of “Adventure Begins at Your Library.” 

Smokey Bear in ReadSquared

Celebrate 80 years of wildfire and nature education by offering the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge in your ReadSquared site. This program includes:

  • 7 missions related to Smokey Bear, fire safety, and nature education
  • 2 book lists
  • 8 badges
  • 10 avatars
  • 1 program banner
  • 1 certificate of completion
  • Smokey Bear Badge

Programs such as the Smoky Bear Reading Challenge are effortlessly integrated into your ReadSquared platform with just a single click and a few details specific to your library, such as the dates you would like to run the program. Smokey Bear Reading Challenge and Missions are free to use through November 28, 2024, courtesy of the USDA Forest Service.

Review the full program.

Get Started

Check out the library toolkit!  It contains everything libraries need to promote and implement the challenge. Digital toolkit items include: 

  • Paper challenge log 
  • Smokey’s Reading List 
  • Printable posters, bookmarks, certificates, coloring sheets, games, and prizes 
  • Promotional images for web platforms, digital displays, and social media. 

Interested libraries should have received the free Smokey Bear Challenge incentive materials including stickers, stamps, and laminated program cards from the Forest Service via their library systems.  

Smokey's Reading List: Books Available from the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library

The following titles from Smokey's Reading List are available from the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library

The Hike by Allison Farrell (DBC19156)

Summary: This book tells the story of three girls' friendship-and their tribulations and triumphs in the great outdoors. Here is the best and worst of any hike: from picnics to puffing and panting, deer-sighting to detours. Featuring a glossary, a sketchbook by one of the characters, abundant labels throughout, and scientific backmatter. For grades K-3. 2021.          

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner (DB088883)

Summary: A young girl and her father discover the world of animals living under the snow while on a cross-country ski trip. For preschool-grade 2. 2011.

Redwoods by Jason Chin (DB093329)

Summary: A young city boy riding the subway happens upon an abandoned book loaded with facts about redwood forests. Fascinated, he soon travels to the very forest described in the book and finds himself enchanted with their majestic, towering canopy. Commercial audiobook. For grades K-3. 2021.

Controlled Burn by Erin Soderberg Downing (DBC29701)

Summary: The story of twelve-year-old Maia, who is battling some huge personal demons and anxieties, but begins to conquer her fears while spending the summer with her grandparents after her younger sister is severely burned in a house fire. When danger strikes again, Maia must summon all her bravery and overcome her self-doubt if she wants to save those she loves most. For junior and senior high readers. 2024.

Wildfire by Taylor Morrison (DB064741)

Summary: Examines the behavior and patterns of wildfires, their role in the forest ecosystem, and their impact on wildlife habitat. Discusses the tactics and tools of firefighters, including giant helicopters, satellite communications, controlled burns, and manual labor. For grades 4-7. 2006.

The Big Burn by Jeanette Ingold (DBC14282, BR014424)

Summary: 1910. This novel tells the story of three pairs of young people in the fire's path: Three young people, Jarrett Logan, his cousin Lizbeth and an African American soldier, Seth Brown, battle the flames of the Big Burn of 1910 that scorched millions of acres across Idaho and Montana and transformed their lives forever. For high school and adult readers. 2002.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan (DB069976)

Summary: Depicts the 1910 forest fire that devastated swaths of Idaho, Washington, and Montana and portrays the people who battled the flames. Highlights President Theodore Roosevelt's and the fledgling U.S. Forest Service's stance against mining and timber interests, which led to efforts to conserve the country's natural resources. Some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2009.

Additional Information and Resources

Libraries can use the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge program and themed materials for Summer Reading or for any reading program taking place from January through November 2024. 

The USDA Forest Service will be asking for feedback from libraries that used the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge program materials. Libraries should keep track of completed challenge certificates and report that number back to their systems in the fall. Additional information will be provided by the State Library when it’s time for libraries to report on their Smokey Bear Challenge activities. 


Please send any questions Sharon Phillips, Youth Services Program Manager, at