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Summer Reading Program kicks off June 1

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | May 26, 2023

A jammed-packed schedule of new and returning programs will hit Lee libraries this summer during their annual Summer Reading Program, this year sporting the theme of “All Together Now.”

The theme is interpreted through Acts of Kindness, Lee County Library System Manager of Programming & Community Outreach Manager Melissa Baker said. As she is creating the challenges she said she could not help but smile, as she can only imagine the kindness that is going to be spreading this summer.

Acts of Kindness include doing trash control throughout your neighborhood, helping someone with their chores, letting someone go before you in line, volunteering your time, donating clothes, leaving an anonymous note of encouragement to saying you’re sorry and remembering to say please and thank you.

The program is held for all ages from June 1, through Aug. 1 with kick off parties taking place at every branch to celebrate the Summer Reading Program.

The intent of the Summer Reading Program is to encourage school-aged children to continue reading throughout the summer to keep their reading skills fresh. In addition to maintaining learning through the summer, Baker said the program is also to promote reading for enjoyment and pleasure.

“It’s about instilling that life-long love of reading and getting kids reading for enjoyment,” she said.

As part of instilling that love, every child and teen will receive a free book, which they get to choose from the library.

“A couple of weeks ago we bought 20,000 copies of books that go out to all of our branches in English and Spanish. The kids can choose what they want and take their free book,” Baker said, adding that they can also find more books to check out at the library, log their reading, do Kindness bingo and win fun prizes.

A Summer Reading Kick-off Dance Party will take place Thursday, June 1, from 11 a.m. to noon for ages 2 to 5 years old, followed by a Family Kick-Off with games and activities from 2 to 5:30 p.m. for children 6 to 11 years old, as well as a Teen Kick-Off for those 12 to 18 all at the Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Blvd. N.

North Fort Myers Library, 2001 N. Tamiami Trail, will have a Down the Rabbit Hole Summer Reading Kick-Off party from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6.

The following week a Summer Reading Kick-Off Party will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at Cape Coral Lee County Public Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace. Another Kick-Off Party will be held on the same day from 2 to 5 p.m. at Pine Island Public Library, 10701 Russell Road.

Baker said this year they are doing a soft opening at all of the branches, with regular programming beginning the following week, Monday, June 12.

“All summer long you can expect special programs. I am excited about the variety that we are bringing to the community this year,” she said.

The Summer Reading Program offers three layers, with the first being the reading challenge, which can be done through READsquared, an app that can be downloaded. Participants can complete online mission challenges and activities, as well as log the books they have read to receive points. Games will become unlocked at various thresholds.

If a participant receives 500 points through reading, or missions, Baker said they are eligible for branch drawings, which are split among birth to 5 years old; kids 6 to 11 years old, teens 12 to 18 years old and adults 18 years old or older.

The winners will be drawn the week of Aug. 7. The prizes include board and picture books for birth to 5 years old; 2023-2024 Sunshine State Young Reader Award and Jr. Award titles for kids 6 to 11 years old; 2023-2024 Florida Teens Read books and popular titles for teens 12 to 18 years old and popular donated titles for adults 18 and older. There also are an assortment of puzzles, science kits, journals and more included in the prize baskets.

“They are all really awesome. Every branch has the same prize package. Pick a branch and participate,” Baker said.

For those who would rather do the paper challenge can drop by a library and pick up the sheet that includes both English and Spanish. The paper challenge includes a Kindness Bingo, which is for every age group from Pre-K to adults.

The idea is to complete five tasks in a row, just like a bingo board through various kindness activities. Individuals can also read for an hour and mark off one of the Bingo squares.

“Once you get a bingo it is equivalent to getting 500 points in READsquare,” Baker said.

The special programs are scheduled throughout June and July for youths. She encourages individuals to visit leelibrary.net/events, as the programs include registration due to their popularity.

“Check the online calendar of events and register ahead of time to guarantee a spot. It’s only guaranteed to the start of the show. We want to fill the room to capacity. If they still have spots they might let you in,” Baker said. “These presenters, we block them in groups of 10 programs. If it is full at one and you’re willing to drive, there’s always an alternative. There are four days of programming for each presenter.”

The schedules differ, too, she said as Northwest Regional Library offers nighttime programs and Cape Coral Library offers more during the day.

“I am excited about the variety that we are bringing to the community this year,” Baker said.

A new program, Joshua J. Superstar Show. features comedy, circus stunts and a great deal of audience participation. GiGi and Friends, another favorite, features GiGi and her dog SuperZeus. The act will feature comedy, magic, dog tricks, sing-alongs and circus.

Another fun program features Adams Animal Encounters with Wildlife Biologist Adam Pottruck.

A teen program, Bunny Yoga and Mindfulness, will feature both yoga and free roaming bunnies to pet.

Other programs include storytellers, dance parties, bubbles and live theater.

In addition to the programs, the library branches will have self directed activities and a variety of different crafts during the Summer Reading Program.