New Mexico State Library

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Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

by Kelly McCabe, Youth Services Coordinator

In celebration of Smokey Bear’s 80th Birthday, the USDA Forest Service is collaborating with public library systems across the country this year on the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge.  This program is designed to be a fun and easy way to engage children in reading about wildfire prevention, forests, and natural resource careers, while exploring their local environment.  Participants can take Smokey’s Bear Pledge to support fire safety, read books from Smokey’s list, and earn badges by learning about their environment.

Shuly Serrano of Las Cruces Public Libraries visits with Smokey Bear.

New Mexico State Library is a national partner in the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge and is encouraging our New Mexico public libraries to participate in the program as best meets the needs of their community.  The national program runs through November 28, 2024, so libraries can have programming running into the Fall.  Although designed for participants ages 4-10, New Mexicans of all ages can get in on the fun!  Smokey Bear was also appointed the 2024 Summer Reading Champion by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, the nonprofit that organizes summer reading programs for public libraries across the country. Smokey Bear’s Reading Challenge fits in beautifully with the national summer reading theme of Adventure Begins at Your Library.

Las Cruces Public Libraries celebrated on June 4th by hosting a Smokey Bear Birthday Party at their Thomas Branigan Memorial Library branch.  Families learned about Smokey’s history from a reading of Smokey Bear Story, played rousing rounds of Pin the Hat on Smokey, and had a visit from the birthday boy himself – Smokey Bear!

Families participated in Pin the Hat on Smokey at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library.


Arthur Johnson Memorial Library in Raton, NM, is celebrating Smokey Bear with a series of Saturday guest speakers including the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Raton Fire Department, and Fort Union National Monument.


Arthur Johnson Memorial Library (Raton) is celebrating Smokey with a series of guest speakers.

The NMSL Rural Bookmobile Northeast had a special visit from Smokey and his colleagues at the Southwestern Region of the USDA Forest Service at their monthly stop in Pecos, NM in June. Patrons were able to visit the bookmobile for their regular checkouts, get a picture with Smokey, and pick up free books and activity guides.

The staff of the Rural Bookmobile Northeast enjoyed a visit from Smokey Bear at the Pecos stop in June.

Our New Mexico State Library Public Services Bureau has also created a robust Smokey Bear LibGuide to support programming with additional history, media, and information – including special sections on the New Mexico connections to Smokey Bear and resources for libraries and educators.

The New Mexico State Library encourages New Mexicans to reach out to their local public library to see how they are participating, or get additional details about individual enrollment online at Smokey Bear Reading Challenge. 

Historical images of Smokey Bear can be found in the NMSL Smokey Bear LibGuide.

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