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Kids 'dig into reading' at our local public library

By: Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

After six weeks of reading, crafts, and fun, the Children’s Summer Reading Program celebrated its last gathering Friday, July 26, 2013, in the Kathleen S. Mount Meeting Room of the Johnson County Public Library. This year’s theme was “Dig into Reading,” which inspired both a lot of digging – for earthworms and gem-mining – as well as a lot of reading. For the final session, the focus turned toward dinosaurs, the great reptiles that once roamed the earth and whose bones are excavated by paleontologists around the world today.
For over 27 years, the Johnson County Public Library has hosted the Children’s Summer Reading Program. This program relies heavily on organizations such as Delta Kappa Gamma, Friends of the Library, and several private donors who help supply the funds needed for the activities, snacks, and books given to the children. Although hosted by the library, the Summer Program is run mainly by dedicated volunteers. Two volunteers in particular, Leni Smith and Barbara Gratsch, have led the children’s program for several years, bringing just as much zeal to the venture as creativity. Their contributions, as well as the generous donations of other volunteers and organizations, have truly shaped the overall experience the children and parents discover during the six-week program.
Getting a late start Friday, the first reading began at about 11:15 a.m. Ms. Gratsch started off the hour with Bernard Most’s If the Dinosaurs Came Back, which drew a number of little hands into the air, each child wanting to tell what he or she thought would happen if the dinosaurs really came back. One said she’d use the apatosaurus as a slide, another said he’d never ride in an airplane again, ousting it for his pterodactyl, another, probably the more logical thinker, said he’d run for dear life. The children’s eagerness to engage with the readings (e.g. hands shooting up like rockets and small dinosaur related comments made here and there) continued through the next two books: The Dinosaur Who Lives in My Backyard by B.G. Hennessy and How Big Were the Dinosaurs? by Bernard Most.
As in earlier weeks, where the children found themselves measuring gummy worms, painting with vegetables, and creating furry masterpieces, a similar activity followed the readings. This week’s activity was simple and yet perfect: dinosaur dioramas. Each table held a collection of supplies from glue, paper, and scissors to plastic dinosaurs, trees, and rocks. The children came at the project like a tidal wave. Boxes were chosen, dinosaurs snagged, creativity let loose like a whirlwind. Most of the children’s diligence kept them cutting grass and gluing landscape for half an hour or more, some seeking Ms. Smith to have their dinosaurs or trees hot-glued to their boxes. Their determination to create was astounding, awe-inspiring, and unwavering – that is, until Ms. Gratsch announced snack time.
a Icenhour, meets in the main library to discuss weekly readings and related topics. For more information on the Summer Reading Programs or volunteer opportunities, contact the Johnson County Public Library at (423) 727-6544.