Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik said she hopes the little ghosts and goblins who ring her doorbell tonight looking for a treat won't go away feeling disappointed.

Weik said she will probably give out the traditional candy this year, but she'd rather be giving out books like she did last year.

Weik participated in a small but growing program called Books for Treats, an initiative that began in 2001 in San Jose, Calif., and has spread to other communities across the United States. Through the program, homeowners are encouraged to place gently used books into the bags of trick-or-treaters "to feed their minds and not their cavities," according to Books for Treats founder Rebecca Morgan.

"Books are candy for the mind," said Weik. She said kids took to the books she gave out better than she could have ever imagined.

"Kids were squealing with joy and delight. It sounded like my front porch was more fun than Valleyfair."

With the permission of her son Jeff, Weik put many of his childhood books on tables outside her Woodbury home last year, then stood by and watched as kids loaded up their bags with titles such as "Goosebumps," "Star Wars" and other kid favorites.

"I think I got more joy than they did," said Weik. "They didn't want the candy. They kept yelling to each other, 'Hey, this is the house with all the books.'"

Weik is up for re-election this year and didn't have time to hit garage sales, library sales and thrift stores and other places to find inexpensive books this year.

"I'm a little anxious that they will come [on Sunday] and I won't have books for them," said Weik. "I hate to disappoint them."

While she plans to resume the tradition of giving out books next year, Weik asked Washington County officials to put a link on the library's website and post signs in its branches to promote the ideas among patrons.

"What better treat is there than a book and an opportunity for lifelong learning?" said Dawn LaBrosse, library youth services coordinator, who emphasized that libraries are not giving out books for Halloween.

It's not necessarily more expensive to give out books over candy. This year, the average household will spend $20.29 on Halloween candy, according to the National Retail Federation.

With the average 15- to 24-year-old spending an average of just seven minutes a day on voluntary reading, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, programs such as this can help kindle children's excitement about reading before they become teenagers, Morgan noted on her website, www.booksfortreats.org.

In San Jose, Books for Treats now passes out more than 6,500 books a year. Weik said if she is reelected and appointed to the Library Board, she hopes to use Twitter, Facebook and other means to publicize the program and get area residents on board for 2011.

"This is a fun community project and a worthwhile program," Weik said. "Books have magic in them." And besides, "sugary treats are not necessarily the best food to be eating. This is a great way for a family to recycle and pass on books. They are treasures."

Tim Harlow • 651-735-1824