HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Public Library's youth summer reading program kicked off Monday morning as children and families flooded the fourth floor to participate in various outer-space-related educational games and activities.

"Every year we have a summer reading program for kids, and we have lots of activities to encourage children and their families to read over the summer," said Breana Bowen, assistant director for youth services at the library. "We're really excited; we've got lots of cool activities going on, and it's all free to the public."

The program involves children reading at home and going to the library with a caregiver to track their amount of reading for chances to win prizes like Camden Park passes, Bowen said. Any children up to age 17 may participate, and the library provides adult summer reading programs at all its locations as well.

As this year's theme is "A Universe of Stories," the program will include various outer-space-themed events throughout the year, including a visit from the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), a planetarium in partnership with Marshall University, space-related art from the Huntington Museum of Art and a constellation program with West Virginia University Extension Services, she said.

The kickoff party included various activities and games for children, including a "moon walk," "hot scotch" based on the sun, tossing rings around Saturn and many more.

"Kids are learning how to read and count, but they're also having a good time," Bowen said. "All our activities are fun, but they're also educational."

The main objective of the program is to introduce children to the library and its services to show them it is an enjoyable place to hang out while also maintaining and enhancing their reading skills, Bowen said.

Huntington resident Karen Gallegos, who brought her 4-year-old grandson Sam to the kickoff party, said the event was her first time attending the library, and she is now anticipating future visits as part of the summer reading program.

"The reading program seemed really promising," Gallegos said, "but I was still pleasantly surprised."

Her grandson is fascinated by outer space and solar systems, she said, and he is now very interested in many of the books involved in the program.

"This is all very exciting and much more than I thought it would be," Gallegos said.

Children can sign up for the Youth Services Summer Reading Program at all Cabell County Public Library locations. For each 100 books a child reads with the supervision of a caregiver, he/she will win a prize. The goal is for children to read 1,000 books before beginning kindergarten.

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