Summer, science & books

HOUGHTON – The Portage Lake District Library kicked off its Summer Reading Program with a day of science-themed activities and a Friends of the Library Book Sale Saturday.

The reading program rewards children and adults for the number of books they read during the summer, with prizes such as a free book or a coupon for ice cream when readers finish a set number of books, and just prior to 1 p.m. Saturday, about 100 people had already signed up for the program.

The library seemed packed, but Community Programs Director Chris Alquist said rain might have been preventing an even larger turnout.

“Some years we’ve got 200 on the first day,” she said. “Last year we had over 700 total” in the reading program.

The summer reading program continues through Aug. 16, and readers are still welcome to sign up at the library front desk.

“It started out to be for children only, then adults started to come,” Alquist said. “Now there’s almost as many adults as kids.”

This year’s theme for the reading program – “Fizz, Boom, Read!” – is focused on science, and Alquist made sure there were plenty of science-themed activities at the kickoff. The Houghton High School robotics team brought two of their creations, one designed to throw and catch a ball, and another to launch frisbees.

Danielle Land, who’ll be a full-fledged team member as an HHS freshman next year after observing last year, said she already knows it takes a lot of reading to design a robot.

“Just figuring out how to work the thing, you have to read the instructions,” she said, adding that really understanding how a robot works takes significantly more book-work.

Her own reading habits should make her a valuable addition to the team.

“I’m a big reader,” she said. “If I don’t have a book I start panicking. That’s all I do.”

Kids also had the chance to build their own underwater magnifying glass, build geometric structures with marshmallows and toothpicks, build paper ball launchers with balloons and plastic cups, make a creature with pipe cleaners, make necklaces or get their face painted.

The book sale kept the adults enthralled hunting for $1 or $2 bargains on their favorite authors.

Alquist said the Friends of the Library put on book sales twice a year. In recent years, she said, they’ve used proceeds to buy new library furniture, purchase audio books, and acquire a listening center that allows up to four children to hear an audio book simultaneously with headphones.

They also sponsor numerous free public events.

“We have a really active Friends group,” Alquist said. “They do a lot for us.”

Alquist said there will be plenty of library events throughout the summer, including story times for kids and adult programming. Scheduling information for those events is online at

“We invite everyone to enjoy reading this summer,” she said. “I’ll see you at the library.”