Columbus Metropolitan Library officials are hoping this summer will be a real page-turner for local youths and their families.

The library system's Summer Reading Challenge kicks off Saturday, June 2, at the Main Library and all 22 branches.

A family-friendly celebration will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave., Columbus.

Admission is free.

Musician and storyteller Jim Gill will perform at the event, which also will feature food, games and other activities.

Attendees can register for the Summer Reading Challenge and learn more about it, said Ben Zenitsky, a library system spokesman.

As for the Summer Reading Challenge, formerly known as the Summer Reading Club, it is free, as well, but does require a library card and registration at any of the facilities or online at columbuslibrary.org/summerreading.

"We want the emphasis to be more on educational benefits of reading as opposed to recreational," Zenitsky said.

Yet many elements of the program, which runs through Aug. 4, remain in place, he said.

Entire reading lists will be built around guest speakers.

Both children and adults will earn prizes and will be free to partake in special events held throughout the summer at many of the branches, Zenitsky said.

"We try to make it as engaging as possible with lots of programs and activities," he said. "Everything we do ties back to reading."

Summer is a time when children can lose reading skills, Zenitsky said, and students who don't pass state-mandated reading-proficiency tests face repeating the third grade.

The library system will continue its Reading Buddies practice sessions throughout the summer.

"We know that reading is a skill, and if you don't practice it, you can actually lose it," says Mickie Stiers, youth-services manager of the Karl Road branch.

"Summer Reading Challenge is a great way to get young minds excited about reading while also ensuring they're maintaining this critical skill," she said.

It's also important for adults to join in with the students to take advantage of the summer-reading program, Stiers said.

"It's all about modeling behavior," Zenitsky said. "This isn't just about kids, it's for members of the whole family."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary