GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Complimenting those lazy days of summer with a good read is a perfect way to expand young, developing minds.
But the eternal question remains, how do you coax your kids to leave the Xbox 360 behind and embrace the world of books?
The Grand Canyon Community Library has the answer, offering up some new and exciting reasons to read during the hottest season of the year.
Not to mention their deluxe air conditioners.
Stop by the library every Friday from July 8-29 and take a look at what the program's coordinators, Mindy Karlsberger, Mely and Saby Elias have in store this year. Starting from 11 a.m., there will be a variety of crafts, food, puppets, storytelling, music as well as a play in the works.
"This year's theme is 'One World, Many Stories,'" Karlsberger said. "Tony Norris a well-known and much beloved storyteller is one of our guests, as well as a theater group from Northern Arizona University who will put on a production of Josefina Javelina."
The special events are not just for SRP participants and are open to all. Children ages 4 to 11-years-old who would like to participate in the reading program need can sign up at the library. They will be required to keep a reading log.
Reading incentives are given out are based on completing the requirements of the log, which will be distributed among all participants. Prizes are related to the theme and include pins from different countries, ice cream from Carvel, boomerangs, globe balls and books.
"I spoke to Carvel here in Tusayan and they are going to give every kid who finishes the program a free ice cream cone again this year," Mely Elias said.
The reader that racks up the most minutes will receive a $10 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.
During the program, readers will participate in themed craft sessions and performances, but will still be able to check out whatever books they want. Everything at the library will be open for them to read.
This year, participants will be going to Italy and Thailand. Children will prepare for their "trip" by first making a passport.
"We are going to take their pictures and they will be able to put it in a little passport and have it stamped when they 'visit' a country," Elias said. "I found these little tickets for their seats when they go on their trip ,too, which is so cute."
When they visit Italy, puppeteers from the Flagstaff library will be coming to perform Pinocchio.
"The crafts we are doing are pretty basic, but I tried to tailor the crafts specific to the country," Elias said. "We are also printing out little booklets so they can learn little phases like 'hello' in Italian and Thai, which may be a little more difficult. We are going to try and that so the kids can get an idea of some of the countries we are going too."
Elias' son is only 4-years-old, but she said this program has helped him tremendously. Getting used to books and is just the beginning of a literary journey, reading for about 15 minutes a day and then coloring a picture has made all the difference in his mindset.
"As far as my kids go, they love it," Elias said. "I think that it's great that my son is a little more interested in books. Before I started taking him to the reading programs he just wanted to look at the pictures, but now he is interested in words too."
Spending more time with kids his age is an added bonus, she said.
The importance of these programs in a small community like the Grand Canyon is essential for children, Elias said. Rarely are there specific programs for children, so getting involved and contributing in some way is very important for community growth.
"We live in such a small place where not a lot of things go on here for children," she said. "All the local businesses are focused on the tourists. So for the local people that live here it is nice to help out and maybe encourage others to do the same thing."
Reading is a crucial skill for children, and all too often becomes a neglected afterthought during the summer months. Elias said not only is this program fun, it helps them stay on track.
The community library also now has eight public access computers and Wi-Fi. Hundreds of DVDs are also available along with new releases and bestsellers.
For more information on the summer reading program or the community library, call (928) 638 2718.