Library's summer reading program underway; kickoff party slated for June 4

School may be out for the summer, but the Lawrence Public Library isn’t about to let our brain muscles go soft.

The library’s 75th annual summer reading program launched on Thursday, just as Lawrence schools let out for summer vacation, with the theme of “Exercise Your Mind — READ!”

“If you keep yourself engaged during the summer, when you come back to school in the fall, there’s no ground lost,” says Kathleen Morgan, director of development and strategic partnerships at the library, citing studies about summertime learning loss among children.

As part of the program, children, teens and adults throughout Lawrence will be encouraged to track their reading activity all summer, either by books finished (12 for kids and teens; five for adults) or by hours spent (30 total for all involved). Prizes are awarded to those who reach their reading goals by Aug. 19.

In keeping with this year’s theme, an official “Library Olympics” kickoff party is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 4, at the library, 707 Vermont St. Games, crafts and other family-friendly activities — including minigolf and putting lessons from the pros at Eagle Bend Golf Course and the Lawrence Country Club — fill the roster.

“Obviously reading is brain exercise, but we’re mixing reading with physical exercise as well, so a lot of the programs have that flavor to them,” Morgan says.

Among this season’s fitness-skewed activities: Fitness Fridays (in which instructors from local gyms will lead free workouts on the library lawn every week), “super walker and historian” Henry Fortunato’s “Hike Through History” program and Burroughs Creek Trail tour, and free one-month passes to area gyms.

The library’s J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired “Walking to Rivendell” program encourages participants to track walking, running and cycling this summer on a map of Middle Earth; prizes await the determined Hobbits (or whatever) who make it all the way to the elfin city of Rivendell. So far, more than 300 people have signed up, says Morgan.

Library staffers have a few book recommendations relating to themes of strength and endurance, but reading of all sorts — that includes magazines, newspapers (ahem), even cereal boxes — is encouraged, Morgan says.

“Our whole goal is to get people to read and enjoy reading. It’s one of those things that I’ve always said, and I told this to my kids — good readers are always successful,” she says. “I have no doubt in my mind about that. If you read, you’ll do well in life.”

Last year, about 4,000 people finished the reading program. This year, the library is shooting for 4,500.

For more information, including a complete schedule of events and a reading log, visit www.lawrencepubliclibrary.org or stop by any service desk at the Lawrence Public Library.

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