Keep the kids reading, learning and dreaming this summer

Adventure. Travel. Flights of fancy. This and much more is within your reach when you read. Yes, school is out, but the time for unlimited reading for pleasure has just begun.

To celebrate reading for youngsters, the Columbus Public Library has kicked off its Aflac Vacation Reading program.

"We're very excited to get started," said Kristina Garner, children's department head, in a recent interview before the big kick-off.

The incentives apply to babies through 11-year-old kids. Those too young to read can have books read to them by their parents, or listen to audio books.

For every 10 books a child birth to 7 years old reads or has read to him, it is written on a log or recorded online. The child gets to pick a prize from the treasure chest and have her name written on a star to hang in the library.

Each time 10 books are completed, the child is entered into a drawing for a grand prize -- a Leap Pad, which is a tablet type computer for children.

The reading contest for 8- to 11-year-old kids is being handled differently this year "to level the playing field," Garner said. Instead of recording each book read, the youngsters log in five hours of reading to be entered for a grand prize, one of two Kindle Fires being given system wide. Each branch is giving away a telescope.

The librarians stand ready to help you find something to read. The schools have summer reading lists, and Columbus Public Library has most of those books, Garner said. There are other lists, divided by age groups, of alternative books for those that are checked out all the time. The libraries also have bookmarks with recommended books on them.

This year's theme is "Dream Big: Read," Garner said. This could refer to any kind of dream, dreams about what you want to be when you grow up, dreams at night, camping, or night animals, Garner explained.

There are interesting books in this summer for all age groups. For example, for preschoolers, "Superhero ABC" by Bob McLeod is a book in which superheroes are represented by different letters, and there's a lot of alliteration.

"Robot Zombie Frankenstein" by Annette Simon is about two robots who keep trying to "out-cool" each other, Garner said. "They keep upping the ante," she added.

A book for early elementary age children is "The Big Fat Cow that Goes Ka-Pow" by Andy Griffith, an Australian author. It contains 10 smaller stories, has lots of rhyming and is very silly.

Third and fourth graders might enjoy a book by the author of the Ladies' Detective Agency books, "Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case," by Alexander McCall Smith.

Older elementary students would like a prequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society, "The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict" by Trenton Lee Stewart, in which you learn about Nicholas Benedict as a child and get "his background story," Garner said, and find out "why he is the way he is."

Fans of the Wimpy Kid series would enjoy "Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet" by Kirk

Scroggs, Garner said. "It's about a dorky kid in school, trying to be more popular and have more friends. He idolizes Gonzo... One day he wakes up and he's turned into a muppet," she said.

If you're a fan of the Inkheart series, you might like "Storybound" by Marissa Burt. The main character finds she's been written into the book. "Adventures unfold, mysteries become apparent," Garner said.

"Summer is the busiest time in the children's department," Garner said, adding, "We have a lot of programs going on."

On June 14th there will be a magician. On Tuesday mornings at 10:05, there will be a "Dare to Dream" series in which a firefighter, a Columbus Symphony Orchestra musician, a TV meteorologist, an artist, a soldier and a police officer will visit and talk about their dreams, and how they were realized.

On Thursdays at 4 p.m. the North Branch will offer a lot of "science themes," Garner said. That will involve volcanoes, tornadoes and other experiments.

Each branch will show movies.