The final event in a.K. Smiley Public Library’s summer reading program was a smaller, quieter affair than in previous weeks after a last-minute schedule change.
Youth Services Librarian Pamela Karr’s improvised program included reading and singing, which seemed to engage her young audience. The children enthusiastically sang along to “The Roly Poly Song” and listened to a book about a king who won’t get out of the bathtub.
The children crowded around Karr listening and contributing their own comments about the stories while parents and grandparents looked on smiling.
Karr’s favorite book, “Shhh!”, by Sally Grindley about exploring a giant’s castle received a unanimous thumbs-up from the children.
Kaleigh Carleton and her cousin, Emily, were among the children who were disappointed that they were unable to see the balloon artist.
Balloon animal artist Annie Bananie, who was supposed to entertain the children, called in sick just 20 minutes before the afternoon event.
Although Karr gave attendees permission to leave, the majority of the crowd decided to stay for storytime.
Kaleigh’s mom, Nicole, said they saw the balloon animal performer at the Yucaipa library several weeks ago and had invited Kaleigh’s cousin especially to come see her again.
“Maybe next year!” Nicole said.
Nicole has been bringing her daughter to the reading program events since they began three years ago.
“Some events are better than others, but altogether they’re really good,” Nicole said. “And they’re free!”
Nicole said it is hard to find things to keep her children busy during the summer, a challenge that many parents share.
“You can see how packed it is,” she said. “It just shows you how much we need events like this in Redlands.”
Kaleigh, 6, is not enrolled in the reading program, but her mom said she will probably participate next year.
The library saw its highest enrollment ever this year with 1,004 children and 77 teens enrolled. Karr said children were still signing up this week to help the group reach its reading goal of 1 million minutes.
The group has already read more than 249,000 minutes and has one week left to log the final total. Karr predicts that the children will exceed 300,000 minutes by the conclusion of the eight-week program.
The three Hartling brothers have been contributing heavily toward that minutes total.
Brendan Hartling, who is “7, almost 8!” he announced, is reading the seventh book of the Harry Potter series.
“They’re cool because they’re about magic!” Brendan said.
Brendan’s brother, Cameron, age 9, said he has already read all of the Harry Potter series and is looking forward to seeing the movies.
“They have to read the books first,” their mom Eleanor said.
Liam, 6, said he likes the “Star Wars” books and a series called “Danny and the Dinosaur.”
The brothers said they have not been keeping track of how many minutes they have read, but their mom estimates that Cameron and Brendan have each read nearly 1,500 in the three weeks they have been signed up for the reading program.
The boys enjoy books about adventure and magic and love that reading introduces them to another world.
“Sometimes when I read, I feel like I just popped into the book and I’m right next to it,” Cameron said.
Karr, who reinvents the reading program every year, said she hasn’t yet had time to think about what she will change for next year.
She did say she would like to provide separate programming for teens in the future, as they like different kinds of events than the younger participants do.
Patricia Diaz is a journalism major at Biola University in La Mirada. she is a summer intern at the Redlands Daily Facts and can be reached at email@example.com or 909-793-3221.