The countdown has begun.

Summer Reading Club returns soon to Southwest Public Libraries, and staff has prepared a fun and engaging series of programs and booked several special-guest performers that reflect this year's SRC theme: A Universe of Stories.

Summer Reading Club runs from June 1 through July 27 but first, the library will partner with the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department as part of the city's Summer Sizzle Concert Series at the George Edge Music Park in the heart of downtown of Grove City at 7 p.m. May 31.

Bring a lawn chair to enjoy a show from the Shazzbots that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original moon landing. Grove City Youth Services staff will be there with activities and crafts to sign people up for Summer Reading Club.

In addition, members of the Friends of Southwest Public Libraries, the nonprofit organization that supports the mission of the library, will be on hand to talk about their group.

The library will be host to its kickoff performer June 3, when Jeff Wawrzaszek presents his A2 Magic Show. He will be at Grove City at 10:30 a.m. and Westland Area at 1:30 p.m.

Other guest performers, educators, artists, storytellers and acts at the library this summer include Turtle Lady, the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, ventriloquist and comedy juggler Mike Hemmelgarn, Anthony Gibbs as Underground Railroad conductor and inventor John Parker, Stevens Puppets, the space painter Thomas Sparough and others.

Both libraries also will have a wide range of hands-on activities throughout the summer, several with a space-based theme.

At Grove City Library, children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade can participate in Far-Out Fun -- stories, crafts, games and STEM-based activities -- as well as Universe Travelers, which invites children to journey through outer space each week through books and activities.

All ages are invited to get creative with Galaxy Creations and partake in the Edible Alien Autopsy. The former involves small parts while the latter is not for the squeamish, so children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the Happenings newsletter or the quarterly programming calendar at either SPL branch for a full schedule of everything happening at SPL.

Apart from programs, the other component of Summer Reading Club is reading.

Our dedicated group of "volunteens" will help you sign up at either branch. Track your reading this summer, log it in your reading record and win great prizes. Sign up begins June 1 at the library.

New this year: you can download the ReadSquared app to access your account on your phone.

Read fiction or non-fiction, listen to audiobooks, have someone read to you. It doesn't matter what you read or how you read; just read.

Mark Dubovec is the communications manager for Southwest Public Libraries. Contact him at mdubovec@swpl.org.