Ready for a riddle? What's a great free children's activity that helps children in their reading and exploration and gives back to society tenfold in better educated, more curious and inquisitive children? The Answer? The national public libraries summer reading programs.

Take Advantage of Summer Reading Programs

As state after state and county after county considers putting public libraries on the chopping block for funding, it's time for you and me as parents to take using the library more often from a great concept to an actual action. None of us want to see our libraries close, right? Yet often we don't make time for them in our schedule.

In the next few weeks, Summer Reading Programs are starting up all over the country — most largely on the same theme of One World, Many Stories (some states don't participate in the national theme). There are usually programs that run from pre-K ages through to high school. Our local one starts up on June 15th! Lots of stories, art projects and ways to keep minds and wonder open and alive while the summer days slack by.

Libraries: Use Them or Lose Them?

Just why are libraries and library programs so important? In an interview, author Phillip Pullman summed up our current international library dilemma best. Deciding that number crunching and tax breaks for the rich are more important than literature and libraries, Pullman states, "This approach is tearing apart the invisible bonds of duty and loyalty, belonging and togetherness in the name of an ideology that nothing is more important than money."

England's outgoing Children's Laureate Anthony Browne says much the same as he warned in his final letter that societies will "pay the price in the long term" for closing both public and school libraries.

As someone who has both led story time activities (last year we did a Japanese Ocean unit where we read and discussed mythical sea legends of Japan and did a great Japanese calligraphy activity) and has children who have attended them in three different counties, I can only praise the benefits of summer reading programs. Kids have a weekly number of books or pages they are to read on their own and then come to the library for support and wonder. How great is that? Whether it's a small program or a large one, your children will get something out of it. And it's free, moms, it's free!

Stop reading this. Go call your local public library (if it's still open) and sign junior up. Make it part of your staycation!

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