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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Children to take a learning ride

Friday, January 6, 2006

Ann Thompson, children's librarian at Sikeston Public Library, paints a mural in preparation for the library's upcoming four-part science night.
SIKESTON -- Books in a library's nonfiction section are rarely given a second glance by children unless there's some type of report due in school.

But children's librarian Ann Thompson said she's looking to change that trend when she launches a pilot series of science literacy nights for students in third through fifth grades at the Sikeston Public Library later this month. "I'm very excited about working with this age group," Thompson said.

And what children may not realize is many of today's nonfiction books are losing the textbook style and going to a more inviting format with catchy titles, Thompson said.

"I'm hoping the program will lure children into the nonfiction section," Thompson said.

The four-part series begins Jan. 30 and will be based on the Joanna Cole nonfiction series, "The Magic School Bus."

"It's a nonfiction series and an absolutely wonderful way to introduce a science concept," Thompson explained.

The series features main character, Ms. Frizzle, as she takes her students on a magic bus ride to unusual places like, for instance, the human body, Thompson said.

"It incorporates whatever science concept that certain book is related to and targeted," Thompson said.

Over the next four months local children have the opportunity to attend the sessions, which will feature presentations about bats, the human body, water purification and the solar system.

"The Magic School Bus" reading levels are 3.9 and higher, Thompson said, adding many of the books also count for each school's' competitive reading program called Reading Counts.

Since 1995 the Sikeston Public Library (and Parents as Teachers) has offered monthly family literacy nights for preschool children and children in kindergarten through second grades.

"What we do is we read stories, and afterward we make a craft to go along with theme of story. The children also receive a book to take home with them," said Thompson, who has worked at the library since 1998.

The science literacy nights will be similar to the existing family literacy nights, however, they will last a little longer, Thompson said.

"The children have a blast," Thompson said. "They enjoy it and really get into it."

In addition to having fun, the literacy night activities help improve children's developing skills such as gross and fine motor, Thompson said. And the parents really like the program, Thompson said.

"It gives them quality time with the younger ones and the children and parents are both with their own age groups," Thompson said.

Parents also receive a fact sheet about reading and information about how to make reading fun.

"They learn how to make literacy fun and the basic foundation of child's education. They're there to find out how to better prepare their children for school," Thompson said.

Rebecca Couch of Sikeston and her 10-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, attended the family nights at the Sikeston library when Caitlyn was younger.

"As a parent, the reading is so important -- to read to children," said Couch. Couch said what she likes about the literacy nights is the fact books are read to the children, and the children get a lot of skills they need. The program includes the family -- one or both parents, she noted.

"The children learn to sit and listen and they get to be with other children," Couch said, adding she thinks the literacy nights improve her daughter's social skills and encourage her to perform at her grade level.

And who doesn't like getting a new book?

Couch said she and Caitlyn will definitely attend the science literacy night. "As a former teacher, I really think it will benefit children so much in our community," Couch said.

The idea to start the science literacy night was one Thompson has pondered for a long time, but funding was never available.

"One day Brenda Sailors, who's a member of the Sikeston Altrusa Club, came in and said Altrusa was looking for someone to partner with for a literacy project," Thompson recalled.

Then it just all came together and the Sikeston Altrusa Club was able to provide funding for the program, Thompson said.

"Our big emphasis is on literacy -- that's one of things all clubs worldwide promote," said Sailors, membership chair of the Sikeston Altrusa Club. "We were looking for something more hands-on to expand our literacy."

If the program is a success, Sailors said Altrusa International has a foundation which offers grants to fund programs like the one Thompson is starting. Meanwhile, Thompson said she's confident the older age group will be satisfied with the new program.

"They've been asking me over Christmas break, 'Miss Ann, when are we going to have a family night?'" Thompson said.

Now she has an answer for both the children -- and their parents. "I think the parents will learn something through these science literacy nights," Thompson said. "I'm thinking they would enjoy as much as the children."