LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As students reach the tail end of the school year, Lancaster County libraries are beginning their animal-based youth summer reading program, “Tails and Tales.” The program begins on Saturday, June 5.

Participants will keep track of the books they read over the summer, earning prizes based on how much they read. Libraries throughout Lancaster County will also host events throughout the summer as part of the program.

“Some of [the events] are happening virtually and some of them in-person, some of them indoors and some of them outdoors,” Karla Trout, executive director of the Library System of Lancaster County, which organizes the county-wide youth summer reading program, said.

Events organized by the Library System of Lancaster County include ZooAmerica presentations and performances by local musicians, a magician, and someone who does epic tricks with bubbles. Individual libraries organize some of their own programmings, as well.

“It’s fun to read and it’s fun to come to our programs and get out of the house a little bit,” Coreena Byrnes, manager of children and teen services at Lancaster Public Library, said. “But also, it’s so important for kids to continue reading through the summer, of course, to stop the ‘summer slide.'”

Over the summer, when students aren’t reading every day like they would while in school, they may lose or forget some of the skills they developed during the school year.

“Because of everything that’s happened over the past year, school has been kind of disjointed, off and on for different kids, so this gives them a chance to continue their reading that they’ve worked on through the year,” Jill Wagner, youth services coordinator for the Library System of Lancaster County, said.

Additionally, the summer reading program gives kids and teens the opportunity to explore and read whatever they want to — fiction or non-fiction, animal-related or not — says Byrnes.

“Summer is the time to come in and really enjoy reading and try new things and just have fun,” Byrnes said. Wagner hopes that this summer reading can help children develop a lifelong love of books.

After COVID-19 temporarily forced libraries to close their doors to the public, librarians are ready to get back to in-person visits.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be able to do summer reading this summer largely in person and augmented with virtual programming,” Trout said. “It feels like we’re offering the best of both worlds this year, and I don’t think we’ve been more excited about doing summer reading in a long, long time.”

The “Tails and Tales” youth summer reading program is open to children and teens ages 0-19. Some libraries, such as Lancaster Public Library, are also offering summer reading programs for adults.

Participants can track their reading with paper forms available at the libraries or online using Beanstack. Prizes for the youth summer reading program include coupons for ice cream and other food as well as passes for Tiny Town, Barnyard Kingdom, bowling, mini-golf, and more.

“Tails and Tales” begins June 5 and ends August 14. More information is available on the Library System of Lancaster County’s website.