GREENVILLE — The school year may be done for students, young and old alike, but that’s no excuse to put down the books and kick reading to the curb — not with a local library just waiting to be explored.
More than 475 parents, teens and children who attended the kick-off event for the Summer Reading program at the Flat River Community Library on Saturday walked away with a membership to the summer program, which encourages reading with rewards for doing so.
Flat River Community Library Director Laura Powers said often times children will abandon their reading habits during the summer months when school is out and the Summer Reading program is one way to help keep young minds engaged in reading.
“Kids that don’t read over the summer, they fall behind,” she said. “We really need to keep all of the hard work that the school systems and the kids did during the school year going throughout the summer. That’s where the public library can really step in to help out.”
The program began Saturday during a five-hour event with children jumping in an inflatable bounce house, taking part in a nine-hole miniature golf course set up inside the library and having fun with activities that included sidewalk chalk, bubbles and face painting.
“We planned a day full of really fun activities for folks,” Powers said. “We then encouraged them to sign up for Summer Reading while they are here.”
And sign up they did.
According to Powers, 248 children, 147 adults and 83 teenagers signed up for the program on Saturday, which lasts throughout the summer and concludes on Aug. 9.
Powers said she was happy to see the high number of adults and teens signing up along with the children.
“I’m so excited to get the adults and the teens involved, to make it a community-wide event,” she said. “I think when that happens, it really benefits the younger kids to see the people they look up to getting involved. When the adults sign up, it sets a very good example for the little ones in the family and then everybody does Summer Reading together.”
Greenville resident Tessa Hoffman attended Saturday’s event with her children, signing them all up for the program.
“We love the library programs,” she said. “This is our first time doing the Summer Reading program, but we’ve come for Toddler Time on Tuesdays many times. The kids liked everything they had here today, especially the putt-putt golf.”
Hoffman said she and her children will continue to visit the library on a regular basis throughout the summer.
“We will definitely be back throughout the summer,” she said. “My kids love to read, they are really into books.”
Greenville resident Craig Reitsma signed up both he and his 4-year-old daughter, Holly, for the program, which he said is just another example of good programs offered throughout the community.
“Today was awesome,” he said. “(Holly) comes to these events all the time, since she was two years old. She really enjoys it and I’m really glad that the library does this.”
According to Powers, this year’s Summer Reading will feature no fewer that 25 special programs — all free — for members to partake in.
“There’s lots of awesome stuff happening,” she said. “There’s a great variety of activities and many different ways to interact with the library that people don’t know about.”
Each age group has it’s own theme, as well.
For children, it’s “dig into reading” For teens, “beneath the surface,” and for adults, “groundbreaking reads.”
“The big picture is to focus on the underground,” Powers said. “We even have a paleontologist coming to give a presentation.”
The rules are different for members of each age group in the program, but the goal remains the same — read to earn points in order to win prizes.
Children who sign up for the program have the opportunity to earn a free book by accumulating 12 hours of reading. For an additional 12 hours, a second free book will be awarded.
For teens, grab bag prizes will be awarded. Once teens accumulate 24 hours of reading they will be invited to an exclusive after-hours party with prizes, games and activities at the conclusion of the summer program.
Adults have the opportunity to win a variety of gift cards.
Along with counting up one’s total hours of reading, each registered member receives a game board with a variety of activities to complete for prizes.
Game board activities can range from checking out a cook book from the library to try out a recipe, using the library’s history room or donating a book to a hospital or retirement home.
But according to Powers, the icing on the cake with the Summer Reading program is that it doesn’t cost anything to sign up.
“The best part is, it’s all free,” she said. “You get to do all of these activities and register for Summer Reading and it is all free. The only thing you would need money for is if you wanted to buy a book at the scholastic book fair.”
Powers said the annual summer program continued with no registration fee thanks to a $3,000 donation from the Friends of the Flat River Library Group.
“It was great for them to step up to the plate and help us like that,” she said.
The kick-off event for the Summer Reading program may have passed, but Powers encourages anyone who would like to participate to sign up at the library at any point during the summer during library hours.
Hours at the library, at 200 W. Judd St., are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday.