With students out for summer break, local libraries are preparing to keep children engaged with productive activities before they return to fall academics.

Tahlequah Public Library kicks off its summer reading program this month, and the program is offered to children in two age groups: prekindergarten to grade 5, and grades 6-12. This summer's theme is "A Universe of Stories," focusing on science and space.

"Kids experience the 'summer slide' during their break," said Michelle Newton, Tahlequah Public Library youth services coordinator. "During this time, they can lose quite a bit of their reading skills. We're trying to stop that."

The pre-K to fifth-grade program features events on Tuesdays in June, like the Inspyral Glow Show, described by Newton as glow-in-the-dark juggling, Extreme Animals, Rocky Mountain Puppets and the Hanson Family Jugglers. On Thursdays, children and caregivers are invited to participate in Come N' Go Crafts.

Children receive a reading log and earn a prize for every 100 minutes of reading they track. Additionally, each time they participate in an event, they are entered to win a bicycle. Four bicycles are offered in the giveaway.

The sixth grade to 12th grade program features events on Wednesdays in June, including the Inspyral Glow Show, Galaxy Jars, Superheroes in Space and Storyteller Gayle Ross. Participants must pre-register for these events.

"I'm always excited for the performers because every performance is different," said Newton. "I'm excited to share new experiences with the children."

Tahlequah Public Library offers some events after the program ends in July, including the inflatable Planetarium, a new addition.

"The Planetarium is like a bouncy house turned upside down," said Newton. "The kids go in there and we teach them about stars and space."

The pre-K to fifth grade program is June 4 through June 27. Events begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. Come N' Go Crafts is 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

The sixth grade to 12th grade program is June 5 through June 26. Events begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Children can participate in the inflatable Planetarium from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22.

Hulbert Community Library, TPL's sister library, is also participating in "A Universe of Stories." This summer reading program is available to all ages.

Like Tahlequah, Hulbert gives children logs to track their reading and win prizes. For every event they attend, they are entered to win additional prizes, including arts and crafts supplies and tablets.

Hulbert features events like the Inspyral Glow Show, Extreme Animals, the Hanson Family Jugglers, Paws to Read, OKC Improv and Mad Science.

"The Mad Science performers put on a show you wouldn't believe," said Pam Davis, Hulbert Community Library assistant manager. "The kids just love it."

Davis became involved with the library by taking her children to the summer reading programs. She loved the library so much, she became a volunteer and eventually the assistant manager.

"Several parents have told us that their kids test higher in reading after our summer programs than they do when they get out of school," said Davis. "We are so thankful for our volunteers and our sponsor, Lake Region [Electric Cooperative]. This would not be possible without them."

On May 31, the Hulbert library had its summer reading program kickoff party. Several children and caretakers showed up to register and eat cake, including Wadana Stacy, who has also participated with the library for several years. This is the fourth summer she has signed her grandchildren up for the summer reading program.

"It gives my grandkids something fun and productive to do over the summer," said Stacy. "They really love it and have a lot of fun."

Hulbert's summer reading program begins tomorrow, June 3, with Extreme Animals at 10 a.m. Events conclude with the end-of-program party on July 23. Parents can sign their children up at anytime.

For more information on the Hulbert Community Library summer reading program, call 918-772-3383.

For more information on the Tahlequah Public Library summer reading program, call 918-456-2581.