Southwest Public Libraries have the antidote to help youngsters avoid the "summer slide."
The annual Summer Reading Club began Saturday, June 8, and gives participants of all ages the chance to earn prizes by reading this summer.
"We want to get the entire family involved and reading together," said Lore Lehr, youth services librarian at the Grove City library.
The club has prizes for babies and toddlers, children ages 5-11, teens ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up. It runs through Aug. 3.
Kids, teens and adults can earn prizes for every four hours of reading they accomplish during the summer.
"Four hours earns you a coupon sheet, after eight hours you're entered into a prize raffle and you get the grand prize for completing 12 hours," Lehr said. "We're aiming for people to at least do 15 minutes of reading a day."
Reading eBooks, listening to audio books or reading online counts as reading time, she said.
The summer reading program is especially valuable for students, Lehr said.
"The studies I've seen show that a child can fall behind as much as a grade level if they don't keep up with reading while school's out," she said. "It's called the 'summer slide.' "
The theme of this year's reading club is "Rock Out! Read!
"You can sign up for the program at either the Grove City or Westland libraries or at any Columbus Metropolitan Library branch," Lehr said. "We're all doing the same program this year with the same prizes, although Columbus will have different activities."
A registration form is available online at the Southwest Libraries website, www.swpl.org.
Southwest Libraries will hold its kickoff event for the club on Tuesday, June 11, with an appearance by the My Nose Turns Red Circus, a Cincinnati-based circus troupe featuring child performers.
The troupe will perform 10:30 a.m. at the Grove City Library and at 1:30 p.m. at the Westland Library.
"After the show, we'll have cookies and punch and snacks provided by the Friends of the Library," Lehr said.
As part of the reading club, special activities for kids ages 5-11 will be held generally on Mondays and Thursdays at the libraries, she said.
"We have the same programs, with Grove City having them in the morning and Westland in the afternoon on Mondays and vice versa on Thursdays," Lehr said. "That gives people more chances to attend a program."
On June 13, chefs from the Cooking Caravan will lead two teams in a "Iron Chef"-style cook-off. The program will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Westland and 1:30 p.m. at Grove City.
Anime and gaming activities will be held on Tuesdays for teens and separate story times for infants, toddlers and preschool age children most weeks, she said. Teens also have the chance to sign up as a volunteen and earn community service hours for school.
"Just about every day of the summer we'll have some fun activity happening at the library," Lehr said.
For those who want to continue reading after the club ends, the library will be participating in a reading program during the month of August sponsored by the Columbus Crew in which youngsters can win soccer tickets by reading, she said.
More than 6,000 people participated in last year's reading program at Southwest Libraries, Lehr said.