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According to Laura England-Biggs, youth services librarian at Keene Memorial Library, instilling a love of reading at a young age can help children excel in school — and in life.

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

That’s why Keene Memorial Library holds its annual Summer Reading Program, encouraging kids to read during the summer months, while offering opportunities to win prizes and attend fun performances.

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.

This year’s grand prizes are sure to catch Fremont area kids’ attention. 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.

“We use it in tech time program on Wednesday and the kids love it, so we’re giving two of them away,” England-Biggs said.

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.

“The more you read, the more tickets you get, the more chances you have to enter one or more of the drawings,” England-Biggs said.

For England-Biggs, however, the Summer Reading Program offers more than just prizes — it gives kids the opportunity to read whatever they want, outside their school curriculums or required book lists.

“We’ve known for a long time that the more kids read, the more they retain their vocabulary skills when they go back to school in the (fall),” she said. “It’s also something to do besides sitting in front of a screen.”

This year’s program kicks off on May 23 with a party at John C. Fremont City Park. The library hosts the annual event in conjunction with the Fremont Parks and Recreation Department, which will be providing a bounce house, weather permitting.

The kickoff event will also feature other activities, England-Biggs said, like face painting and sports. Kids will receive cookies and water, as well as bags with summer reading information.

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.

“I know we can do it this year,” she said.

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