It’s what Max, the king of all wild things, longed for in Where the Wild Things Are.

It’s the “powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing” defended by a little mouse with big ears in The Tale of Despereaux. It’s the deep bond between Billy and his hounds Old Dan and Little Ann in Where the Red Fern Grows. What is this timeless theme running through so many books for young readers? Why, of course… it’s love! And love is in the air at La Crosse County Library this month. February is “I Love to Read” month and in honor of this celebration, Youth Services has some great things going on to share our love of books, reading and libraries.

Through Valentine’s Day, all five of our county library locations have special displays in their youth areas containing materials on love and friendship. If you’re lucky, my latest “book crush” will be checked in for you to try. It’s titled Love by Matt de la Peña. And I’ll confess, it was “love at first read” when I picked up this new and gorgeous-in-so-many-ways picture book. Its poetic text explains love in simple, honest terms by focusing on the sights, sounds, smells and experiences that make up a child’s everyday world. It’s the idea that love is all around us if we just take the time to stop and notice. And the beautiful illustrations by Loren Long highlight the inclusive, rich diversity of that world as well. Oh, how I love, love, love the book Love.

Also in February, all kids in grades 8 and under can come join our “Library Dog Loves to Read” mini reading program. Kids pick up a reading sheet at any La Crosse County Library and write down titles of books they read (or are read to). Then they just bring it back to the library any time in February and earn fun prizes. After completing the program, they can enter Library Dog’s Guessing Game Contest to try and win a free book! No registration is required.

And if you’re in the middle of a great book you love, what better way to mark your place than with an awesome bookmark? Kids in grades 5K thorough grade 12 can break out their art supplies and their creativity next month because we has something exciting coming their way in March.

It’s the “March, March… March of the Bookmarks!” annual bookmark contest. Kids get to design a bookmark using their own original artwork and slogan about libraries or books. Every bookmark entry will be hung in the “March of the Bookmarks” display in the library location where it is submitted. When March is over, one winner (between the five locations) is selected for each grade level.

Color copies of the winning bookmarks are put on display at all five county library locations for people to take home. First Place winners receive a book of their choice from our special book catalog and their name, grade, and school will be listed in the local newspaper. Plus, an “award medal” will be put on their original bookmark for all to see! (Medals are given for both first place and honorable mentions.)

Be sure to stop by a La Crosse County location in Bangor, Campbell, Holmen, Onalaska or West Salem to find out more about these great programs for kids. For more information about any of our services or upcoming programming schedules, check out our website at lacrossecountylibrary.org or email Youth Services at youthservices@lacrossecounty.org.

Katherine Sandy is a member of the La Crosse County Public Library system’s youth services team.