Summer reading series offers laser light shows, animals and magic

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At a loss for how to entertain your children during the next 81 school-less summer days? Well, the Malibu Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Club series with a Laser Light Show and interactive workshop, presented by Spectra Laser Systems, next Tuesday, June 23.

The theme of this year’s reading program is “Be Creative,” children’s librarian Katharine Schwartz said. The laser light workshop following the light presentation will show children how DVDs, CDs and holograms are made and give youngsters the opportunity to create their own laser magic.

Summer reading programs are a way to keep your child’s reading skills up to par before the next school year begins, Schwartz said.

“The importance of continually developing reading skills cannot be overstated,” Schwartz said. “Reading-based comprehension is what leads to academic achievement, if nothing else. But more important, it develops imagination.”

Children who sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Club are not given particular assignments, but encouraged to read as much of anything they can find, achieving reading-hour points to exchange for prizes.

Though some of the most popular children’s literature continues to be found in works by Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), S.E. Hinton (“Big David, Little David,” “The Puppy Sister”), R.L. Stine (“Goosebump” series) and the ubiquitous Harry Potter series, Schwartz said that young readers’ tastes have changed a bit with the advent of the Internet.

“We are seeing greater popularity with graphic novels and material available only on the Net,” Schwartz said. “Books with shorter chapters and quicker plots are popular. Kids are still reading, just in a different format.”

But lest parents bemoan the “dumbing down” of reading skills, Schwartz said graphic novels have actually been shown to have more sophisticated vocabulary and complex plotlines than other age-appropriate literature.

Other Summer Reading Club activities include Wildlife Co.’s Live Animal Program wherein children meet and learn about exotic animal ambassadors (July 7); professional mime Mark Wenzel will introduce the art of pantomime (July 14); magician David Skale introduces children to the humor and wonder of magic (July 21); and a pirate review performs with trained parrots (July 28). Appropriate book options are featured each week.

In keeping a reading log, children can accrue “hours read” in exchange for special coins that can be used to buy prizes. Reading logs will be accepted until Sept. 5 at the library.

“It really is about the love of reading,” Schwartz said. “But school summer reading assignments can count toward reading hour prizes too.”

For younger children, the library offers Story Time on Thursdays at Bluffs Park (9:30 a.m., beginning June 18) and Saturdays at the library (4 p.m., beginning July 9).

“Story Time is great for children up to age five,” Schwartz said. “It’s a way to develop language abilities and appreciation for the magic of books. And it’s really important for kids to see their parents reading themselves, to learn that reading is a source of pleasure, not just a school assignment.”

The Malibu Library was established at the Civic Center complex in 1970, after years of bookmobile service to residents of Topanga and along the Pacific Coast Highway. Its current collection includes some 100,000 books, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, audio recordings, video recordings and special materials.

But one of the library’s best features is its public database, Schwartz said.

“Our databases have encyclopedias, law libraries, health information and test prep courses for SATs and other entrance exams,” Schwartz added. “And this is all free for people who sign up for library cards.”

Sign-up for the Summer Reading Club, which is free, begins June 22. Application for a library card is free as well and entitles cardholders to all the various CDs, DVDs and public access Internet computers.

“And all the books as well, of course,” Schwartz said.

The Summer Reading Club will meet every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. from July 7 until Aug. 13 for children in kindergarten through sixth grade (though the program is available for children up to age 18) and will offer a diverse program of activities.

More information about the Summer Reading Club can be obtained by contacting the Malibu Library at 310.456.6438 or by visiting the Web site: www.colapublib.org/libs/malibu