Parents, wondering how you’ll fill your kids’ summer days? This reading program should be on your list

Not only are the books and featured events great, but these prizes are an added bonus!

Have your kids ever done a Summer Reading Program? (Photo provided by the Orange County Library System)

As the school year winds down and excitement starts to build as we inch closer and closer to summer vacation, parents and caregivers might be wondering: What will we do with our children to fill all the extra hours in the day?

Summer is a great time for relaxation, a renewed emphasis on playing, and enjoying the great outdoors and sunshine.

But you’ll also want to keep your kids’ brains relatively sharp -- we’re not suggesting anything too strenuous! -- which is why we LOVE the idea of a summer reading program.

Take this one, for example: Orange County Library System’s annual Summer Reading Program. This year’s theme is “Oceans of Possibilities.”

Brian Tillman, of Window World, who once again donated $50,000 to the program, recalls, “My first library memory is being in the basket of my mom’s tricycle as a 3-year-old, (as) we didn’t have a car. We arrived at the front of the library and walked through the entrance into a wonderland of books and ideas. As a college student, I remember looking for a quiet place to focus and to get academic resources. As a parent, it was special walking my kids into the same library building I visited as a kid. I remember walking them through and explaining where everything is.”

On the Summer Reading Program, Tillman said, “I hope that it inspires them to explore the world we share -- to love the ideas of our country’s founding. That they feel part of a community, and that there’s a place where dreams are born and nurtured.”

Library officials said families can expect “an exploration of new depths, seven seas and infinite stories.”

This year, OCLS is bringing even more flexibility to its program.

That means classes, events and specials will be offered both in-person and virtually. (And that’s a return to “normalcy” -- last year’s event was completely online). Library workers say they’re excited to see people’s smiling faces again!

Everyone can make a splash and enjoy all the library has to offer this summer. Check it out: For ages 0-5 | For ages 6-12 | For ages 13-17

By the way, there’s an adult Summer Reading Program as well, so stay tuned for those details. For now, we’ll touch on the offerings for kids.

Here’s what you’ll do, or have your kids do:

  • Find great books to read on the library’s Summer Booklists for Early Learners, Kids and Teens.
  • Read at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Sign up for Beanstack and log your minutes online, or use the English, Haitian Creole, or Spanish paper reading tracker.
  • Pick up a take-home craft at your library branch.
  • View the online calendar to register for upcoming programs and events.

An active library card is required to participate in the Summer Reading Program. You can sign up for an OCLS library card online or by visiting any of the Orange County Library locations in person.

Some incredible prizes are on the table this summer for people who compete in the challenge and meet their goals.

If you encourage your kids to read 20 minutes a day (or do it with them) and you log at least 10 hours by July 23, you’ll be entered into the prize drawing for each age group. Exciting prizes include Nintendo Switch Lites, scooters, iPads, tablets, art sets, science kits, LEGO sets, gift cards and more.

The events look great, too. Mark your calendars for June 9 because an especially cool event features Emily from Netflix’s “Emily’s Wonder Lab.”

There’s an End of Summer Celebration, as well, intended for people to come together as a group, and celebrate the stories, tales, and lore they’ve read this summer.

The party will be hosted at five branches with live music and a grand-prize drawing for kids ages 6 through 12.

Learn more about the Summer Reading Program.