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York County Libraries and Go York! celebrate their summer reading and physical activity program at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Warrington Township, Saturday, July 15, 2017.

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The York County Libraries summer program kicked off this month, and it provides  myriad  opportunities for kids to exercise their brains and bodies while on break from school.

SummerQuest: Libraries Rock! and GO York! GO and Make Music! are  part of the program, running through Aug. 19.

Following this year's music theme, chosen by a national consortium of librarians across the country, YCL's summer activities — which drew about 12,000 participants in 2017 — are back for the 31st year.

They're open to children up to age 18 — and free registration packets are available at each library, according to a news release.

Once registered, children and their families can take part in a variety of free events, including story times, hands-on science experiments, game nights, crafts and dance, according to a news release.

Community Relations Director Deb Sullivan is looking forward to the library's teen activities, such as Cupcake Wars, a series of decorating competitions now offered for the second year in a row.

A guidebook given at registration has a key to help parents find  activities that are most suited to their child's age, she added.

Sullivan said there is no limit to the number of activities families can attend, and participation helps them earn incentives, such as prizes and badges.

Each person can log  minutes online and reach different prize levels — 800 minutes gets a free ticket to a York Revolutions baseball game, for instance.

Local businesses also donate prizes throughout the year.

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New focus: The goal of the program is to keep kids' minds active during summer break.

"With school out, learning and reading shouldn’t stop,” York County Libraries President Robert F. Lambert said in the release.

New this year, the name SummerQuest reflects a statewide shift in focus on more than just reading.

Commonwealth Libraries, a division of the state Department of Education, made the decision in an effort to be more inclusive of different ways in which children learn, said Paula Gilbert, director of York County Libraries Children and Youth Services.

Whether they are hands-on, visual or oral learners, children can have more of a choice in activities to avoid the "summer slide," she explained.

“Libraries across Pennsylvania have always focused on reading and will continue to stress the importance of that," Gilbert stated.

But expanded options incorporate creative, STEM and outdoor activities.

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Outdoor learning: The Get Outdoors York (GO York!) initiative, which returns for its 11th year, is a partnership between YCL and WellSpan Health to encourage exploring area parks and trails, a news release states.

Families can partake in an adaptation of letterboxing, following clues to find 30 hidden posts with etched rubbing-plate images that they can transfer onto their guidebooks. 

Participants also can share photos and offer tips on the GO York Facebook page.

Go York is funded through WellSpan's Community Partnership Grant Program, which awards grants to nonprofits that improve the health of people in communities WellSpan serves, according to the release.

Through working with other libraries, WellSpan has expanded the program to Adams, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

This year, area Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can get credit for participating.

YCL worked with local scout councils, which created a badge exclusive to the program, said Paula Gilbert, director of York County Libraries Children and Youth Services.

If Scouts go to 10 of the 30 participating parks, log 100 minutes and complete two activities, they earn the badge and a certificate, Gilbert said.

More than 800 scouts have signed up, she added.

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STEM activities: In addition to GO York!, Gilbert explained, children also can take advantage of LEAP into Science, which offers curriculum for those in kindergarten through fourth grade from the Franklin Institute. To go with the music theme, this summer, students will delve into the science of sound and music to learn how sound is made and how to create musical instruments.

Each library has different options, such as Lego building, Minecraft and interactive electronic learning, she said.

Thanks to area sponsors York Water Co., Glatfelter and WellSpan Health, the program is free of charge.

For more information on activities, visit yorklibraries.org and goyork.org.

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