This summer I was asked by the Librarian of the Yap State Library to be a teacher at this year’s “Summer Reading Program”. I might add that this librarian is the former AG’s wife, and the mother or aunt to what was once my entire Girl Scout troop. I know her fairly well. She also knows that I love working with kids, including her own. I was asked to join 25 or so 7-11 year olds every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2-4pm at the library. I was very excited!
The goal of the reading program is to promote literacy by getting kids excited to read. They were oriented to the library and issued library cards. But then it was time to get down to business, the business of having fun!
Each day was a little different but included a story being read, often many, and a craft or art project. One day we read three children’s books about monsters, including one very tattered copy of Where The Wild Things Are. Then they used water colors, yarn and sequins to create their own monsters!
On another day they created books out of construction and photocopy paper. That day we had read a story about having pets, so they were asked to write a little bit about if they could have any pet in the world, what they would choose. There were dolphins, cheetahs, sharks, dogs, cats, and one penguin. Though I wonder if this child got his inspiration from the chapter book we began reading that day, Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Us teachers took turns reading two chapters each session to the kids from Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and by the end of the month we finished the book! Several 7-8 year olds had never read a chapter book before so they were very excited about this and listened intently to each and every chapter. I ended up reading a majority of the chapters to the kids. Partly because it was my idea to read the book to them and I felt bad for making others read it too, and partly because I wanted to read it again! It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I remember it being when I first read it as a young girl, but I did my best to get the kids interested in it, which sometimes was hard since there weren’t many pictures and they weren’t even in color.
Each day myself, or one of my two fellow teachers, both expat friends of mine, would read several children’s books to the kids. This was my favorite part. It feels good to grab a group of kids attention with just a good book and a few silly voices! I can’t recall all the books we read as some days there were four or five books read, but I do remember the excited faces as I read to them about animals, friendship, duck soup, and the places they will go. I was ecstatic to find a copy of Dr. Suess’s Oh the Places You Will Go! that I stashed away and read to them on the last day of the program.
I remember being impressed with the size of the children’s section of the library when I first saw it, but when you take a closer look, many of the books are in very poor shape, are very old, or just don’t seem to grab the kids attention. Many have stickers on the inside saying who donated them, churches, former visitors, and various humanitarian groups are represented in our little library.It was a treasure hunt each session to find great books, luckily we found a few. Here are the kids playing a game with one of my fellow teachers.
A student from the high school also helped us each session, and created many of the awesome craft ideas. One day I was a little alarmed to find out the craft was tie-dye. Inside the library? With 25 kids who have never used tie-dye? Sure but, I’ll be hiding over there in the corner telling the kids not to touch me or anything else! It was a good lesson for me, and for her. She learned that working with small groups is best when permanent mess is involved. I learned that sometimes you have to let others figure out what works and doesn’t, even if you think you know better. Luckily we didn’t receive any angry calls from parents after sending home a few kids with big blotches of dye all over their clothes. It took 4 days just to get the dye off my hands after I finally caved in and decided to make a tie dyed swatch of cloth for myself, that didn’t turn out, because by then all the dyes were mixed into the inevitable brown that develops when too many colors get mixed together. The kids did enjoy scrubbing the floor afterward and sliding around on the soapy floor.The swatches were hung up in the library to decorate the large windows in the children’s section, allowing the kids to feel some ownership of the space, and hopefully entice them back to its shelves.
I also picked glitter out from in between my toes on a few occasions.
It was GREAT!
On the last day we had a party to celebrate the end of a fun-filled month of literacy. Each child was given a wrapped gift and instructed not to open it until they got home. I don’t know what they were, but some were definitely books. Awards were given out, selected by the teachers, including “best behavior” and “perfect attendance”. The table that once held craft projects was covered with a spread of junk food provided by the library and teachers. I baked a cake that turned out mortifyingly funny looking, thanks again to my anti-baking freak of an oven. As I stared at the mess of a cake I wondered if I should trim it up and try to make it presentable, then I remembered it would be devoured by a room full of sugar craving kids, so I slapped on some chocolate frosting and hauled it down, through a tropical rain storm with the tin foil flapping in the wind, to the library.
We took turns reading a few last books to the kids before letting them loose to load up their plates with chips, cookies, cake, popcorn, and the like. As a thank you to the teachers the kids decided to sing a song for us. The first selection was Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”. They were going strong, and I was surprised how they all knew every word, but then voices faded away and the performance stalled out mid-song. A few other church songs were attempted but had the same result. Eventually we took the opportunity to clap wildly showing our enthusiasm for their efforts and thanked the kids for their singing. It was very sweet. They tried so hard to reciprocate for what we had given them over the month, our time and attention
As the children settled down on the floor in the kid’s section to enjoy their selections, us teachers hovered over the table snacking and commenting on how fearful we were of what was to come next. The sugar rush. It came, and to distract them we gave them ice cream, right before we sent them home! The librarian jokingly asked me if I wanted to babysit her kids, one of which at that moment was laughing so hard on the floor that I was worried she would get sick. I laughed and told her that I would love to, any night but tonight.
I had glitter to wash off my… everything.