The Lehighton Area Memorial Library opened its 2012 Summer Reading Club on Wednesday with storytelling and activities in the Lehighton downtown park.

Dozens of parents and young children attended the program, laughing and interacting as storyteller Kathy Long shared the stories "The Wise Judge" and "Hero Grandmother Spider Brings Light to Earth." The reading club will continue to meet Thursday afternoons through July 19 between 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Lehighton library. A closing session will be held at Baer Memorial Pool.

This year's summer reading program will feature a "self-paced" reading and activity time. Children from ages 3 through fourth grade are encouraged to stop by the library each Thursday at any time between 3:30 and 6:30. Activities will include a story station, where children can choose to read a story or be read to; a craft station; and an interactive station that will change each week, such as a scavenger hunt. Children will also be asked to share how many books they've read in the past week.

"Reading opens a whole new world of opportunities that kids might not be able to experience otherwise," said Becky Wanamaker, director of the Lehighton Area Memorial Library. She noted that children can travel to new time periods or locations in a book, or explore new ideas and expand their imagination by reading. Studies have also shown that children who read or are read to are more likely to excel academically.

"It's important to get them reading to build their educational skills, but also to keep them thinking and creative. We want to get their minds active during the summer, and to reap the benefits of being a reader," she added.

In addition to taking part in the summer reading program, families will also have a chance to borrow books or register for a library card when they visit each week. Lehighton library cards are free for all residents of the Lehighton Area School District. Cardholders can also borrow books online or from other area libraries.

The theme for this year's program is "Dream Big: Read." Weekly storytelling and activities will focus on dreaming and wishes, and encourage children to dream big dreams this summer.

"It's a great opportunity for your kids and for you," said Wanamaker. "It's fun, educational, and free."

To register for the summer reading club, stop by the Lehighton Area Memorial Library, located at 124 North Street, or call (610) 377-2750. Information on the Lehighton library is available at www.lehightonlibrary.com.