If you’re running out of ideas to entertain your children this summer, don’t overlook the city library. Your local branch provides the perfect opportunity to help your child keep up with summer learning—and it’s air-conditioned, a plus in the current heat wave!

Librarians around the country report an upswing in people turning to libraries to job search during lean economic times. And many branches now offer e-books, computer games, and DVD rentals to further save you money.

Those with children find that the library helps not just economically, but by completing kids’ summer reading lists, improving their computer skills, and enhancing their reading comprehension through storytime and other activities.

Eva Mitnick, the youth services manager for the Los Angeles Public Library, said most libraries offer a Summer Reading Program to school-aged kids and teens. This year, her library started a special program for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to reward younger children for reading, singing, going to storytime, and doing other special activities with their parents.

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Most libraries offer extensive youth programs in the summer that range from storytime to music time, puppet shows to magic shows.

Such activities make the library welcoming, so families can feel comfortable enough to spend more time there, says Marcia Warner, president of the Public Library Association based in Chicago.

“Introduce yourself to the children’s librarian,” Warner says. “They will listen to your kids and create reading lists tailored to their interests.”

Keeping kids engaged in reading helps avoid the “summer slide,” which education experts and researchers say can happen to children’s knowledge over the summer break. A Johns Hopkins University study shows that three months off from school can especially affect disadvantaged children’s reading ability long-term, setting them up to fall farther behind as they grow older.

“Kids who don’t read in the summer often don’t catch back up in the fall,” Warner says. “Keep books with you in the car, read them in the doctor’s office. Make going to the library part of your family’s culture.”