Storytimes will come alive this summer in Prairie Township but it won't be a teacher or librarian doing the reading.

The township fire department will again host its Reading With a Firefighter program on four nights -- July 18, 26, 31 and Aug. 8 -- at Station 241, 123 Inah Ave.

Reading With a Firefighter nights are free. Each program starts at 7 p.m. and will last about an hour.

Attendance at the program has grown every year, said Prairie Township firefighter Matt Powers, who started the program six summers ago.

"It's natural for kids not to keep up on their studies over the summertime. It's a way to encourage reading over the summer and it also lets them see a firefighter in a non-emergency situation," Powers said. "The firehouse is like our home and when they get to see us in our home -- it's a breath of fresh air for us."

Each storytime will include two to three books, followed by a special guest or activity.

"We talk about each book and if there's a lesson that can be applied," Powers said. "On the first night, we typically give a tour of the firehouse and where the firefighters live."

Children also will get to meet a firefighter in turnout gear, to see what they wear and how the equipment protects them in an emergency, Powers said.

A naturalist from Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is among the special guests planned for the other nights.

When it comes to picking out children's books, Powers has a secret weapon.

"I have a 5- and an 8-year old. I take them with me to the library and they help me pick out the books," he said.

Chief Chris Snyder said he enjoys the storytimes almost as much as the children because it gives him a chance to witness firefighters in a different type of action.

"It makes me so proud of the crew that works for us," Snyder said. "We're not here to just put out fires and put out emergencies. We're here to be a community partner."

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