Book intro with fun:Americorps program engages children to love reading

Jon Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The Americorps Book Club for Kids is a free event open to community members. Children hear a story and then make crafts with the help of Americorps volunteers

Fostering an interest in literacy in children through activities and stories is the aim of the new session of Book Club for Kids, which started Oct. 6 at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

The club is a program organized by the Americorps national service network open to children ages of 3-12.

“Our focus is to try to encourage literacy,” said April Lantto, the Americorps project lead.

While the club has been hosted at the library for a number of years, this is Lantto’s second year organizing the event.

“It’s usually more structured than this,” Lantto said.

Jon Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Oct. 6 was the first Americorps Book Club for Kids at the Portage Lake District Library this year. The popular event will continue to be held on the first Saturday of each month throughout the school year.

The event is usually held in PLDL’s community room, but the community room was being used for a book sale so the book club was moved to another area of the library. While the move might have loosened the structure, it also gave the children easier access to books, which of course is a primary objective of any book club.

“We have reading and crafts themed around the books,” said Axel Cote, one of the Americorps volunteers.

This time the book and crafts were themed around Halloween, but there is a different theme each time.

“Literacy is involved with everything that a kid learns. Literacy is just the base of it,” said Cote. “Kids should always love books.”

“It’s important to inspire a love of literacy while they’re young,” agreed Americorps volunteer Jenna Bahnke. “Biologically, learning is easier when we’re young.”

Children gathered around in a special corner of the library to hear the first book read. After that, the children broke off to do crafts, although many children brought more books to their parents or to Americorps volunteers to hear a few more stories.

Crafts included making spider webs out of yarn and sticks, making ghosts out of paper plates and making hand puppets out of paper bags and coloring sheets. The children were allowed to do as many of the crafts as they wanted.

The turnout was about what the Americorps volunteers were expecting, and they always bring more craft supplies than they think they’ll need, just in case.

“I’m going to do all of the crafts,” said Jasper, a local youth who attended the event.

Jasper has been to these events before and is no stranger to the library. “I like reading books,” he said, particularly books based around the Lego franchise.

Books aren’t the only benefit, according to Susanna Ausema, a parent at the event.

“The opportunity to be with community members is really important,” said Ausema. “We come whenever we see them advertised.”

The partnership between Americorps and PLDL that makes events like these possible goes back a long way, according to Chris Alquist, the library’s program director.

“They reached out to me and asked if they could give an introduction on what Americorps does,” Alquist said.

The relationship grew naturally from there.

“One of their main objectives is to encourage literacy in children, so a partnership with the library was perfect,” she said. “The kids love this program and we always get a huge turnout.”

Americorps Book Club for Kids is held on the first Saturday of each month until May. The event is free, and while attendees are encouraged to sign in at the events, there is no commitment.