All three branches of the Burke County Public Library are getting ready to offer kids of all ages a summer of good reads, fun activities and a variety of prizes through its annual summer reading program.

“At the root of everything we do is reading,” said Jim Wilson, the library’s director. “The thing we always try to emphasize is that when kids go on break from school, if they don’t read, they lose a lot of what they gained during the year, so this is an opportunity to maintain those gains over the summer.”

New this year is a combined kick-off party for the children, youth and adult reading programs, which will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 10, on the grounds of the Morganton branch. Rick Cline and Pandemic, a local steel drum band, will perform a concert. Vintage cars will be on display, weather permitting. The library recently purchased a foam machine and will have a foam party during the event. Food will be available for purchase from the EGG Roll-in food truck.

“We’ll be onsite to answer questions about the programs and be here to register kids, teens and adults,” said Halee Hildebran, the youth services program coordinator .

» Children’s summer reading program

Hildebran said the theme for the children’s summer reading program is “A Universe of Stories,” chosen by the State Library of North Carolina to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission in which humans first walked on the moon. The program’s story times, activities and prizes will feature aliens, rockets, stars, planets and other celestial symbols.

Some of the activities will include field trips to places like the Catawba Science Center, a visit from the Roper Mountain Science Center Star Labs portable planetarium, a drama by the Green Bean Players, a deep space photography exhibit, simulated astronaut training at Tumblemania, water play, a birds-of-prey presentation and “Science-Tellers,” an interactive science and storytelling program. There also will be weekly movie nights and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and a once-a-month family story time.

During the program, children will keep track of the minutes they spend reading, and then come to the library weekly to turn in their reading logs and choose a small prize from a designated treasure chest. The chest will have items such as stuffed animals, toy rockets and fidget spinners. Hildebran said there is no minimum number of minutes a child has to read each week in order to receive a prize, and they can read anything they want.

“Every child has a different level of what’s an acceptable amount to read,” she said. “We’re just encouraging you to read as much or as little as you can.”

Children who turn in story logs also will have their names put into a drawing for some grand prizes, which will be awarded at the program’s end during a skate party from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 29, at the Pavilion Roller Skating Park in Morganton. A separate prize will be awarded to the child who has read the most minutes. Children do not have to be present to win a prize.

“I want them to come and feel like they’re having fun this summer, and not even realize that they’re learning in the process,” Hildebran said.

» Young-adult summer reading program

The theme for the young-adult summer reading program is “World Travel: Adventure is Out There @ Your Library,” inspired by the movie “Up” and chosen by the library’s Young Adult Advisory Board, according to Margaret Ruark, the young adult program coordinator. The program is open to rising sixth-graders to rising 12th -graders. Each week’s activities will focus on a different continent.

Activities will include a Hispanic cooking class, a trip to an alpaca farm, an archery and pellet gun workshop, a horse show, visits to Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, a virtual reality and laser tag game night, a scuba and snorkeling demonstration, an African pottery class, a swimming party, outdoor movies, craft projects and a bike ride on the Morganton greenway.

Some of the activities have fees and require pre-registration. The Morganton Parks and Recreation Department provides vans for transportation, if needed.

“The way the young adult program is set up is incentive-based,” Ruark said. “You don’t get penalized for things you don’t do. Teens are extremely busy – they have youth group, mission trips, vacations and things like that. So the program is designed to do as much as you are able. It’s a great alternative to staying at home. You’ll find a lot of kids meeting kids for the first time that are not in their school. It’s a great, safe place to come and give you things to do, and they’re well-supervised.”

Students in the program are divided into two teams and compete to earn points through reading books, participating in activities and contributing to a service project. This year’s project will have participants collecting plastic and metal bottle caps to send to TerraCycle to be made into things like park benches. They must write a critique at least two sentences long for each book they read. Ruark said teens can listen to audio books instead of reading books in print, if they like.

“With different learning types, there are a lot of kids, especially at that age, who cannot sit down and read a whole book, but they will listen to it and will gain as much, if not more, out of it than someone who sat down and read,” said Page Andersen, the library’s assistant director. “We don’t want to judge against them just because they are in a different learning type.”

Prizes will be awarded at the program’s ending pizza party from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, July 26 at Catawba Meadows Park. Some of the prizes that will be awarded include a season pass to Carowinds, a one-year membership to Audible, Power Beats 3 wireless headphones, passes to the North Carolina Zoo, gift cards and cash.

“The prizes are going to be parallel with getting outside and doing things they may not have done before,” Ruark said.

» Adult summer reading program

The theme for the adult summer reading program is “Breathless, Thrilling Words @ Your Library,” and is based on the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Activities will focus on the 1920s era.

“It is a remarkable book that allows the reader to experience many ‘what-if’ moments and the consequences of one’s choices,” said Danielle Townsend, the adult program coordinator.

Activities will include trips to the Biltmore Estate, the Grove Park Inn, Blue Ridge Distilling Company, Lake James Cellars and a glass-blowing studio in Asheville. There will be workshops featuring crafts, jewelry-making, painting, dancing and genealogy. Some of the activities have fees and require pre-registration.

Townsend will host a “Speakeasy and Vinyl Night” at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 24, at the Morganton branch featuring jazz music and refreshments, and will screen the movie “The Great Gatsby” at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, at Grace Ridge Retirement Community.

“Some of these programs might inspire you to read specific things and spark a little interest,” Townsend said.

Adults who participate in the program are invited to fill out a book review slip for every book they read and submit them to the library. Each slip will qualify as an entry into a random drawing for prizes, which will be awarded at a final “Ice Cream Indulgence” party at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 26, at the Morganton branch. Participants will have the opportunity to make their own sundaes with all of the toppings. Separate prizes will be awarded for the most books read and the most activities attended. Grace Ridge residents will be put into a drawing for a prize as well.

Andersen said people are welcome to go to programs at any of the library’s branches, no matter where they live. She noted that some of the programs at the Valdese branch will be held at other locations, such as the Old Rock School and Valdese Elementary School, due to renovations taking place at that branch.

Chesley Bailey, senior library program specialist, said the library received funding from the Library Foundation of Burke County and the Friends of the Burke County Public Library to be able to offer the wide variety of activities in the summer reading programs, as well as a $2,000 grant from the Grace Episcopal Church Foundation specifically for the children’s program.

To learn more about the library’s summer reading programs, contact 828-764-9260, visit , or stop in at the Morganton, Valdese or Hildebran branches to pick up a brochure.

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at

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