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Although cloudy skies and the threat of high winds moved the annual Keene Memorial Library Summer Reading Kickoff indoors on Thursday, it didn’t stop hundreds of local kids from enjoying the opening day festivities of the popular program.

The annual Summer Reading Program Kickoff, which is typically held in John C. Fremont Park, was moved into the Lanahan Gym at the nearby FPS Administration Building where children traversed their way through a bounce house, played a variety of games, got their faces painted, and ate cookies.

While the annual event doesn’t involve a whole lot of book reading, the Summer Reading Program itself is designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer months and to instill a love of reading in kids at a young age.

“We need to instill a love of reading in children so that they keep those language skills, those vocabulary skills up,” Laura England-Biggs, youth services librarian, told the Tribune. “The more they read, the further they go in school, usually. The further they go in school, the further they usually go in life.”

But, much like the party, the Summer Reading Program features plenty of fun activities and the chance to win prizes just for sitting down and reading a book.

The rules are easy: readers register with the library to log their reading time onto a website called Beanstack. Every day, they record how many minutes they read with a goal to read 15 minutes a day

For every 105 minutes — or one week’s worth of reading for 15 minutes per day — they get a book from the library’s prize cart and a ticket, which they can submit for a chance to win one of the library’s grand prizes.

The grand prizes are given out in the form of raffle drawings — so the more tickets you enter, the higher your chance of winning.

For children, prizes include an iPad, accompanied with an Osmo Creative Kit, which attaches to the iPad camera to allow kids to play games. There’s also a LeapFrog LeapPad, which includes a swathe of educational games, as well as an “Avengers Hero Inventor Kit” and a Turing Tumble, which is a computer-like device that has kids programming gears and levers.

Adults can win an iPad Mini or a Kindle Fire, and there are also passes available for the Lincoln Children’s Museum, the Durham Museum and Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.

Along with the chance to win plenty of great prizes, Keene’s annual Summer Reading Program also features it’s ever-popular Monday programs which feature a variety of entertainers that bring hundreds of kids to the library each summer.

This year is no different, and includes an extra twist as the Summer Reading Program theme is “A Universe of Stories” which includes a variety of activities planned around a space theme.

Meanwhile, throughout the months of June and July, the library will be hosting special programs in conjunction with the Summer Reading Program — all in coordination with this year’s outer-space-oriented theme: “A Universe of Stories.”

Every Monday from June 3 to July 1, the library will host a performance, including magician Jeff Quinn, a presentation from Wildlife Encounters, a presentation from the SAC Museum, scientist Dr. Oxygen! and singer-songwriter Dino O’Dell.

There will also be a number of classes that kids can join, such as Universe of Stories, where participants will read books and have an activity related to a weekly theme. The Art and the Cosmic Connection class will have kids using NASA technology to “to explore and interpret planetary geology using art techniques.” The Susan’s Space class will feature activities like “astronaut training and space painting.” And the “Train Like an Astronaut” program will put kids on a new “mission assignment” each week that will have them training the same muscles that the NASA astronauts do when training for space exploration.

Visit http://fremontne.evanced.info/signup to register for the classes.

To register for the summer reading program, visit the Keene Memorial library at http://www.fremontne.gov/library and click on the Beanstack link.

Last year’s event had 296 people registered, with 202 people logging their reading. England-Biggs said she hopes to have 300 people registered this year, with 250 logging their reading.

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