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Best Summer Reading Events at the Library: Awesome Free Fun for Kids

A wizard rock concert, escape-room fun, super space events — all free!

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: July 08, 2019


With a more compressed summer than ever (thanks, Snowmageddon), Puget Sound-area parents can be forgiven for not having summer reading programs on their radar. Is there even enough time for kids to slip down the summer slide?

Unfortunately, yes, say experts. The good news is that local libraries have planned such an expansive, inventive array of workshops and entertaining events this summer — where kids can do everything from real citizen science to rocking out to a Harry Potter band, all for free — that summer learning has never been so accessible, so easy and so fun.

Try this recipe for an exploration-rich day trip: Use one of the super-cool library programs below and check out a new neighborhood or new library. Add in a visit to another local landmark — a farmers market, say, or a park — and you’ve got a memorable day in the bag.

Organized by library system and then by date, we’ve gathered a sampler of fun library events around the Sound. (Though this is just the tip of the summer-reading iceberg!)

Note: Unless indicated otherwise, events are all ages and drop-in. If indicated, register early, as programs do fill up. If it’s drop-in event, show up early to make sure you get a seat.

Seattle Public Library: Explore Your World

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Seattle Public Library’s Summer of Learning program presents a nature-focused summer reading theme of “Explore Your World.” In partnership with Woodland Park Zoo, programs include hands-on games, activities, art projects and science activities. Older kids can even participate in citizen science.

Kids can pick up a “Book Bingo” booklet with fun activities and a game board to document their reading goals — and be entered to win cool prizes such as a pinball machine kit! (And adults, you’re not forgotten: Get your book bingo card and start reading.) 

Find a full list of SPL summer events here and check out our top picks here:

The All-American Magic Show:
In this hour-long show, magician Maritess Zurbano explores math magic, magic drawings and the science of magic with lots of audience participation, music and amazing feats of mind-reading.
- Tuesday, July 9, 3 p.m., Yesler Community Center.
- Friday, July 12, 6:30 p.m., Donnie Chin International Children's Park.
- Thursday, July 25, 10:30 a.m., Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium.
- See full list for more events.

Ella Bella Bee and the Pollinators:
It turns out that pollinators are funny and dramatic. See for yourself at this interactive comic musical — fact-checked by a Cornell entomologist — that features songs, colorful costumes, dance and physical comedy about pollinators.
Thursday, July 18, 10:30 a.m., Madrona Playground.
Thursday, August 8, 5:30 p.m., Lake City Branch.
Friday, August 9, 2 p.m., Rainier Beach Branch.

Harry and the Potters concert:
Grab your wands and robes and head out to this free, all-ages rock concert with wizard rock legend Harry and the Potters (yes, wizard rock is a thing). The group, which sings its anthems about books and magic around the world, also helped co-found the Harry Potter Alliance. In June 2019, the band released its first studio album in 13 years, "Lumos," which recounts in song the events of the final Harry Potter book.
 Friday, July 19, 7–9 p.m., Central Library, Level 3, The Norcliffe Foundation Living Room. Registration not required, but space is limited.

Twinkle, Twinkle: The ABCs of Jazz and Blues:
Local musician Michael Powers uses this well-loved song to explore the musical styles of jazz, blues, reggae, salsa, boogie-woogie and even Jimi Hendrix’s style of guitar playing.
Wednesday, July 24, 5:30 p.m., Northgate Community Center.
Friday, August 9, 11 a.m., Broadview Branch.
Thursday, August 15, 2 p.m., Delridge Community Center.

Care for Animals:
As part of the library’s “Explore Your World” theme this summer, Woodland Park Zoo animal keepers will share stories about what it’s like to care for animals at the zoo, and how kids can help.
Wednesday, July 31, 1 p.m., Ballard Boys and Girls Club.
Wednesday, Aug. 7, Broadview Branch.

Fossil Hunters:
Kids can be scientists! Presented by the Burke Museum, this is a drop-in paleontology program where kids can learn to sort small fossils and, in doing so, add to the Burke’s scientific research. 
Thursday, Aug. 1, 2:30 p.m., West Seattle Branch.
Saturday, Aug. 3, 10 a.m., Northgate Branch.
See full list for more events.

Salish Stories and Discoveries:
This special storytelling event features Coast Salish artist Ty Juvinel exploring legends and stories about Mount Rainier and Coast Salish culture, including "How Mouse Moved the Mountain."
Friday, Aug. 2, 6:30 p.m., Donnie Chin International Children's Park.
Sunday, Aug. 18, 12:30 p.m., Madrona Playground.
See full list for more events.

Jargie the Science Girl:
Produced by Phantom Projects Theatre Group, this live, interactive, science-education show features a real scientist introducing chemistry concepts through demonstrations and experiments! For ages 4–8.
Tuesday, Aug. 20, 1 p.m., Beacon Hill Branch.
Tuesday, Aug. 20, 6 p.m., Green Lake Branch.
Wednesday, Aug. 21, 4–5 p.m., Ballard Boys and Girls Club.
See full list here for more events.

    The Nature of Poetry:
    This program will celebrate works written by African-American poets who wrote about their love of nature and science. For ages 12 and up.
    Friday, July 19, 1 p.m., Capitol Hill Branch.
    Wednesday, July 31, 4 p.m., Green Lake Branch.
    Thursday, Aug. 15, 2 p.m., Douglass-Truth Branch.

    King County Library System

    Like many library systems, KCLS’ summer reading program tees off the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with many creative space events and cool incentives for reading. Head to a branch library to pick up a reading log booklet or start tracking your time online. After reading 500 minutes, kids can bring their log to the library for a prize; after reading 1,000 minutes, return to the library with your log for a final prize.

    Find out everything about the summer reading program here, and check out our top event picks:

    Blast Rocket Fuel Reactions:
    Presented by KidsQuest Children’s Museum, this fun workshop lets kids experiment with chemical reactions before designing and building a ready-to-launch rocket. For ages 5 –11.
    Tuesday, July 9, 2 p.m., Muckleshoot Library (drop-in; pick up a ticket one hour ahead).
    Thursday, July 11, 6:30 p.m., White Center Library (pre-register).
    Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m., Kirkland Library (pre-register).
    See full list for more dates.

    Blast-Off to the Future of Fashion Craft Workshop:
    Got a artsy-craftsy kid on hand? This workshop lets them design and make high-tech fashion looks inspired by space travel. For ages 8–11.
    Wednesday, July 10, 2 p.m., Covington Library (preregister).
    Thursday, Aug. 8, 1 p.m., Des Moines Library (preregister).
    Thursday, Aug. 8, 2:30 p.m., Auburn Library (drop-in).

    Yes, It’s Rocket Science:
    The Museum of Flight presents this classic workshop that helps kids learn about rockets, after which they get to build and test their own Alka-Seltzer-powered rocket. For ages 5–7 with adult; preregister.
    Thursday, July 11, 3 p.m, Kent Library.
    Monday, July 15, 4 p.m., Bothell Library.
    Tuesday, July 16, 3 p.m., Kirkland.
    See full list for many more dates.

    Mobile Makerspace: Scrap Satellites Science Workshop:
    Learn about the technology that allows a satellite to orbit the earth and how scientists use the data satellites collect, then create a unique satellite out of recycled materials, including learning to solder together circuitry. For ages 12–16; preregister.
    Thursday, July 11, 4 p.m., Covington Library.
    Friday, July 26, 4 p.m., Crossroads Community Center.
    Wednesday, July 31, 2 p.m., Kirkland Library.
    See full list for more dates.

    Suited for Space science workshop:
    Calling all astronauts! This workshop presented by The Museum of Flight lets kids design and build a prototype space suit, then test it in the vacuum chamber. For ages 8 and older.
    Friday, July 12, 1 p.m., Maple Valley Library (preregister).
    Friday, July 19, 1 p.m., Valley View Library (drop-in).
    Tuesday, July 23, 3 p.m., Newcastle Library (drop-in).
    See full list for other dates.

    Out of This World Magic Show:
    Veteran magician Jeff Evans mixes magic, science and space in this fun show that explores gravity, UFOs, aliens and much more. For ages 5 and older; free tickets available 30 minutes before performance time at the library's info desk.
    Tuesday, July 16, 1:30 p.m., Kingsgate Library.
    Tuesday, July 16, 7:45 p.m. Bothell Library.
    See full list for other dates. 

    Pierce County Library System

    Pierce County’s summer reading program is also space-themed; kids and teens can sign up to earn incentives such as passes to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and tickets to the Seattle Storm and Tacoma Rainiers when they reach reading goals. Find all events and register here.

    Hot tip: Kids (and adults!) can pay down their PCL library fines by reading: Read for 10 hours and get a coupon to remove $5 off of fines.

    Science Tellers: Aliens: Escape From Earth:
    Kids can listen to an intergalactic story that comes to life, and then go behind the scenes of the special effects to recreate the science experiments. Ages 3 and older.
    Tuesday, July 9, 2 p.m., Summit Pierce County Library.
    Friday, July 12, 11 a.m., Key Center Pierce County Library.
    Wednesday, July 17, 11 a.m., Graham Pierce County Library.
    Search the PCLS calendar for more instances of this event.

    Teen Escape Rooms:
    Escape rooms, one of the hottest entertainment trends in recent years, are at a Pierce County library near you this summer. Escape in a mental and physical adventure and solve a series of puzzles and riddles from clues, hints and strategy. Escape room themes range from aliens to "Star Wars" to "Stranger Things.” For ages 13–18 (varies depending on event); preregister online or at the branch and note some events are already full.
    Wednesday, July 10, 3:30 p.m., Lakewood Branch.
    Thursday, July 11, 3:30 p.m., Fife Branch.
    Monday, July 22, 4:30 p.m., South Hill Branch.
    Search the PCLS calendar) for additional instances of this event.

    How the Moon and Stars Affect Wildlife on Earth:
    Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo staff explores what connects the moon, stars and wild animals. Kids can meet a live zoo animal and touch feathers, skulls and furs from animals guided by the night sky! Ages 6 and older; call or stop by the branch to register.
    Thursday, July 11, 1 p.m., Orting Pierce County Library.
    Friday, July 12, 2 p.m., Tillicum Pierce County Library.
    Tuesday, July 30, 10:30 a.m., Sumner Pierce County Library.

    Yes, It’s Rocket Science: The Museum of Flight presents this classic workshop that helps kids learn about rockets, after which they get to build and test their own Alka-Seltzer-powered rocket. For ages 5–7.
    Wednesday, July 17, 2 p.m., Steilacoom Branch.
    Friday, August 2, 2 p.m., Tillicum Branch.
    Thursday, August 15, 1:30 p.m., Milton/Edgewood Branch.

    Museum of Flight Portable Science: Summer Sky Stories of Alexandria:
    In this interactive planetarium show, kids can travel back in time to second-century Alexandria for a night of stargazing and storytelling. Ages 5 and older.
    -Wednesday, Aug. 7, 3:30 p.m., University Place Pierce County Library.

    Tacoma Public Library

    Also under the banner of “A Universe of Stories,” TPL’s Summer Reading Club includes reading incentives and loads of cool events. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a bingo card for each age group. Once you complete five squares in a row, return it to your branch for a prize and for a chance to be entered in the Grand Prize Drawing. Turn the card in by Saturday, Aug. 10.

    Pride, Podcasts and Rainbow Crafts:
    Prepare for the Tacoma Pride Festival by making rainbow accessories and listening to podcast stories about the history of the LGBTQA Pride movement. For ages 13 and older.
    Wednesday, July 10, 4 p.m., South Tacoma Branch.

    Pioneer Storytime With the Job Carr Cabin Museum:
    This fun story time helps kids imagine life before cars, phones or light bulbs, and takes them back in time to when the city of Tacoma was just starting, with stories, toys, games and crafts from the Oregon Trail. For ages 3–7 with families.
    Thursday, July 11, 10:30 a.m., Main Branch.
    Thursday, July 18, 10:30 a.m., Fern Hill Branch.
    Many more events (see full list here).

    R2Northwest Droid Building Presentation:
    Bring your mini "Star Wars" fan to this fun event where hobbyists from R2Northwest: Pacific Northwest R2 Builders Club show off their droids and offer a presentation on how they build them.
    Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m., Moore Branch.

    Haiga (Sumi Painting & Haiku) for Middle & High School Students:
    From a working artist, participants will learn the art of Haiga, which unites a haiku poem with a sumi painting. And something very fun: One artwork piece from each student will be mounted for an art exhibit of students' work at the Swasey Branch in August. For grades 5–12; preregister.
    Tuesday, July 23, 1 p.m.

    Yes, It’s Rocket Science:
    Tacoma Public Library is also hosting this Museum of Flight workshop that helps kids learn about rockets, after which they get to build and test their own Alka-Seltzer-powered rocket. For grades K–5; preregister.
    Wednesday, July 24, 1 p.m., Main Branch.
    July 24, 3 p.m., Swasey Branch.
    Friday, July 26, 3:30 p.m., Fern Hill Branch.
    Many more events (see full list).

    Summer Reading Block Party:
    This season's biggest reading event in Tacoma is the Summer Reading Block Party, outside the Main Branch, with live entertainment, games and activities. Turn in your summer reading book bingo cards to be entered for prizes.
    Saturday, Aug. 10, 1–4 p.m., on Tacoma Avenue S., in front of the Main Branch library.

    Sno-Isle Summer Reading Program

    Snohomish County’s reading program offers activities, incentives and plenty of hands-on events, also with a space theme. You can sign up online or at your local branch. Download a printable reading log or pick one up at your library. When you’ve reached your goal, bring the log to your library to select a free prize book and a "Keep Reading" bookmark.

    Find all summer “launch” events at the library’s website. Here are a few especially exciting ones:

    Galaxy Paintings:
    Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing by learning about deep-space photography and creating your own galaxy painting. For ages 5–12.
    Tuesday, July 9, 2 p.m., Edmonds Library.
    Thursday, July 11, 2 p.m., Mill Creek Library.
    Wednesday, July 17, 2 p.m., Mukilteo Library.
    See library calendar for full events list.

    A Universe of Catapults:
    Channel your kids’ yen to launch things in the air with this fun workshop where kids build different ways to hurl objects through space and explore the physics behind the catapult. For ages 6–10.
    Tuesday, July 16, 2 p.m., Edmonds Library.
    Wednesday, July 24, 2 p.m., Brier Library.

    Under the Night Sky:
    While it’s near impossible to do a star watch with young kids who have an early bedtime, this event is a good substitute. Kids will learn about the solar system inside The Museum of Flight’s portable planetarium. Ages 6 and older; preregister.
    Tuesday, July 23, 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Mountlake Terrace Branch.
    Monday, Aug. 26, 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Stanwood Camano Community Resource Center.

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