Miza Timmer (left) and Carolyn Koebal beat large chu daiko drums. The performers kicked off Ransom District Library’s summer reading program with a Japanese Taiko drum session on Monday, June 16, in front of a crowd of about 50 young children and their familiesEsther Vandercar (left) and King Chan (right) keep pace on the shime-daiko during the Ransom District Library's summer reading program kick off.A cardboard scientist gapes at readers from the bookshelves of Otsego District Library’s newly decorated young adult room

Plainwell and Otsego libraries drum up summer readers

By: 
Ryan Shek, Intern

From live alligators and Japanese drums, to homemade rockets and makeshift automatons, local libraries have kicked off their summer reading programs.

On Monday, June 16, Ransom District Library opened its summer reading programs with a Taiko drumming group.

Michigan Hiryu Daiko, led by sensei Esther Vandecar, banged away on Japanese drums in front of a crowd of about 50 young children and their families. Vandecar, who lived in Japan for six years to teach English, brought back the music even though Japanese sensei were reluctant to teach her.

“I wanted to bring something back that wasn’t just pictures; that’s when I discovered the drumming,” Vandecar said. “They told me I couldn’t (drum) because I was a foreign woman, but two months later I made it my job to find a group that would let me play.”

According to Joe Gross, the library’s assistant director and head of youth services, Japanese culture has been popular recently, making the performance a great fit for the library.

“We want (children) to enjoy books and (for parents) it’s a good time to spend time with the kids,” Gross said.

The Taiko performance was the first in a series of weekly events intended to attract potential readers to the library’s reading programs. Every Thursday through July, the library will feature entertainment from magic shows to dog parades that is free and open to the public.

The summer reading programs, which include story time for children age 4 and older, craft making, and teen writing seminars, do not require registration and are open to the public.

While the Plainwell library looked to bring a kind of energy to its summer reading programs, the Otsego District Library put its own efforts into creating a specific interest: science.

Brenda Morris, the Otsego library’s assistant director, has been working with Michigan State University Extension and the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency to provide the library with a science-themed summer camp as well as other science-related reading programs.

The camp, which is open to all fourth- through eighth-graders, began on Tuesday, June 17, and runs every Tuesday through July 26.

The camp is part of the library’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math plan, or STEAM, an educational initiative designed to incentivize reading and spark young people’s interest in science and the arts.

“Any time you can keep children reading, it’s important,” Morris said. “It’s important to keep those (math, science and reading) skills prominent.”

During camp, each camper is required to read from three specific “Nick and Tesla” books, a science-meets-mystery series written by authors Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith.

The campers read the books at home and then come to the library to build the same contraptions from the stories under the librarians’ supervision.

“(The books) are like the Hardy Boys meets MacGyver,” Morris said. “We’re all excited.”

Children can still join the camp, but registration is required and space is limited.

In addition to camp, the library features a Fizz-Boom-Read weekly reading series for young children, a Spark-a-Reaction program for teens, and special Saturday events, all of which do not require registration and are still open to the public.

For more information on summer reading programs visit www.otsegolibrary.org, or call (269) 694-9129, and visit www.ransomlibrary.org, or call (269) 685-8024.

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