In a state that has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country, Louisiana has to do everything it can to expand its community of readers.

That’s why we hope residents take advantage of summer reading programs being offered at public libraries around the state.

The theme for this summer’s children’s reading program, adopted by parish library systems with the support of the State Library of Louisiana, is “Every Hero has a Story.” That’s a nice way to remind kids that youngsters who read have a better chance at shaping their destinies. A companion summer reading program for adults, “Escape The Ordinary,” underscores the message that grown-ups need a break from their routines during the summer, too. Books can provide that respite, and the signing up for these summer reading programs is free.

Reading has obvious practical benefits for people of all ages, but the summer programs at Louisiana’s libraries are also lots of fun, with magicians, musicians and other performers offering good options for kids who complain that they’re bored.

Participating readers can compete for prizes, but the biggest prize of any summer reading program is the chance to read something because you want to, not because you have to. We hope that Louisiana’s youngsters — and their parents and grandparents — sign up.