During the summer, however, your neighborhood library branch is competing with playground sprinklers, walking barefoot in the grass, and swiftly melting ice-cream that won’t be eating itself, not to mention the latest Hollywood blockbuster. To counteract all that, the New York Public Library System, which includes Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island, as well as the separate Brooklyn and Queens divisions, have struck back with Summer Reading 2012, events featuring parties, theater, music, crafts, and prizes (and, oh, yeah, there’s some reading along the way, too). Kids of all ages, from infants to teens, can sign up either online or at their local branch to record every title they’ve read over the summer. There is no minimum requirement to complete and everyone who signs up is eligible for the end of summer parties (which, more often than not, have food and entertainment and free books), plus a certificate of participation.  Adults can sign up, too.  Their reward is a tote-bag (because adults are always toting things). It’s an overall embarrassment of riches and it’s completely free.  Some upcoming events not to miss are:

Birds of Prey: A Summer Reading Kick-off Celebration
You’ve heard of bats in the belfry?  Then you’ll love birds in the library!  Kids ages three to twelve are invited to get up close and personal with hawks, owls, and falcons (oh, my)!  See, learn, and maybe even get to touch these airborne predators, courtesy of New Canaan Nature Center.

Tuesday, June 26, 4:00 pm
Grand Central Library
135 East 46th Street

Dream Big Under the Big Top: Summer Reading Kick Off
Circuses and sleepovers somehow come together as the oft-evoked children of all ages are encouraged to come dressed in pajamas, participate in a costume contest, and then climb under the big top, where John Berger of Urban Stages will bang percussion instruments from all over the world to demonstrate how they’re used in theatre and other mediums to tell stories, create moods, and enhance movement. And to make sure that, like at most sleepovers, no one will get any sleep.

Thursday, June 28, 2012, 3:00 – 5:00 pm
Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library
40 West 20th Street

Peter Pan: Summer Reading Kick-Off
Come be amazed as a cast of only two actors from the Magic Lantern Theater Company brings to life every member of the classic J.M. Barrie tale, from Peter Pan to Captain Hook to that tick-tocking alligator.  Oh, and bring your kids, they’ll like it, too.

Thursday, June 28, 2012, 3:00 pm
High Bridge Library
78 West 168th Street

Summer Reading Kick-Off for Children
They may be too young to read, but the NY Public Library stresses that even infants should be taught to love books as early as possible. This event is particularly geared towards the “lap” crowd, with storytime, and plenty of space to crawl around, not to mention nice, sturdy board books to gnaw on.

Thursday, June 28, 2012, 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Richmondtown Library 200
Clarke Avenue
Staten Island

Mondays Are Fun Days: Summer Crafts
Think libraries are only for reading? (Or birds? Or circuses?)  Well, think again. Libraries are also for crafting. Reading can get tiring, and, especially on long summer afternoons, it’s best done while reclining against a pillow… which kids in kindergarten through seventh grade can make their own – all materials provided!  (Pre-registration is required.)

Monday, July 16, 2012, 4:00 pm
67th Street Library
328 East 67th Street

African Dance: Summer Readings End
Just a few blocks from Marcus Garvey Square, dancer/storyteller Caren Calder will perform with a live percussionist, demonstrating the ancient art of African dance and rhythms. If you signed up for your Summer Reading at this particular branch, you may pick up your certificate and prizes during the event.  (A Red Tricycle Tip: Though officially you may only attend the closing celebration at the site you’ve registered for, in practice, no one checks too closely.  Feel free to library hop to your heart’s content.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012, 4:00 pm
125th Street Library
224 East 125th Street

The Things We Eat – Tales to Celebrate the Treasures of Food: Summer Readings End
Storyteller LuAnn Adams whets the appetite for reading with classic folk tales like “Anansi & the Tiger’s Soup”, “Why the Sky is Far Away” and “The Carrot,” not to mention the more modern, “Green Eggs and Ham.”  Make sure to bring snacks. You will be hungry afterwards.

Friday, August 10, 2012, 1:30 pm
Castle Hill Library
947 Castle Hill Avenue

Abracadabra: Summer Readings End
Magician Evan Paquette demonstrates “Now you see it, now you don’t” mixed with a healthy dose of “There’s nothing up my sleeve!” for kids ages four and up. This library was recently renovated and now boasts a ramp, which makes getting strollers inside a great deal easier than in the past.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 2:00 pm
St. Agnes Library
444 Amsterdam Avenue Manhattan

Fire and Ice: Summer Readings End
The fabulous, Mad Science guys are back, blowing things up and cooling them down, then starting all over again, to the delight of tots, kids, and teens, and even their parents, who tend to walk away having learned a thing or two, as well. Anything with acts like “Big Burp”, the “Screwdriver Sizzle” and “Mad Science Bath” can’t fail to be spectacular!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 4:00 pm
Grand Central Library
135 East 46th Street

Butterfly Boogie: Summer Readings End
You think the cockroaches in your apartment are big?  Prepare to bow down before a pair of giant cockroach puppets who will make you believe that insects are the coolest creatures around, via a musical performance entitled “The Tale of Flutterby and Piggle.”  The only thing more impressive than a talking cockroach, after all, is a singing one.

Thursday, August 16, 2012, 10:30 am
Mott Haven Library
321 East 140th Street

And remember, many of the above awesome acts will be appearing at more than one library celebration throughout the summer.  To search for who’ll be stopping by your neighborhood branches and when, go to: http://www.summerreading.org/events.php.

Are you ready for a summer of imagination and reading?

— Alina Adams