More than a good read

Written by Aaron Williams on . Posted in Local


Summer has arrived, and with it, the sweltering Louisiana heat, the sounds of children playing outdoors, the high-spraying water at the WBR splash pads, vacations, camps and more.

And though the season’s days have been infamously coined the “dog days of summer,” summer actually marks the busiest season of the year for the West Baton Rouge Parish Library.

From story times to robot programming, puppet shows to hip-hop dance classes, exhibits of skeletons to reading programs, the library has a wide array of activities and programs throughout the summer for children, and adults, of all ages.

“The library’s mission has been the same for over 100 years – it’s information, education and recreation,” said Beth Vandersteen, executive director of the WBRP Library. “Year in, year out, it is a quality of life issue.”

Vandersteen said that Judy Boyce, the library’s outreach youth services director, has been an integral part, for years, in bringing quality programs to West Baton Rouge Parish.

“We have really great programs with very accomplished performers: puppeteers, musicians, dancers, storytellers, mimes – those will be going on,” said Boyce during an interview Monday morning. “These are things that are not available in many areas. They’re just quality family programming. I would say they’re of the highest quality that libraries can provide.”

Boyce and the WBRP Library boasts a stellar group of performers this summer, including the Baton Rouge Ballet; Rhythm and Soul, a hip-hop dance group; Kuniko Yamaoto, a storyteller who also teaches origami; musician Roger Day; and Doug Berky, a mime. Boyce said that each of the entertainers will perform as well as teach classes to children.

“Not only are they performing for (local) summer campers, but we are on tour and taking it to different commercial summer camps throughout the parish - ABC, YMCA, and others throughout the parish,” said Boyce. “We’re hoping the commercial summer camps will come to the bigger programs, and we’re taking the art classes and science classes and activities out to them directly.”

Along with the acts, Boyce said that the library will host art and science programs.

Students will be able to explore science with bridge building, tangram puzzles, experiments with buoyancy and more. They’ll also be introduced to works of art from Matisse, Monet and Mondrian, and have the opportunity to create their own works in the artists styles.

Boyce said that the library, itself, has been turned into a series of exhibits dealing with natural and physical sciences, showing off the library’s science-themed summer.

“The library’s area is limited,” Boyce said. “But we installed as many exhibits and hands-on activities as we could to give West Baton Rouge youth a glimpse of different areas of science.”

She said that the library hosts exhibits of skeletons representing different animal classes, photos of insects, puppets representing animals inhabiting the Caribbean Sea, and even a live butterfly station where caterpillars have climbed into their cocoons.

“We also have books displayed along with the different exhibits,” Boyce said. “Hopefully it creates some interest and curiosity and they’ll pick up a book as well.”

Along with all the science-geared programs and exhibits the library is offering, Boyce said that they will also continue their story time programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers as well as a LEGO robot building and programming class for kids 8 and older.

“In the programs and the classes here in the library and at the summer camps, and the science classes we’re going to be offering in addition to the art classes, the children are going to learn different concepts, explore different ideas and concepts that they might not have an opportunity to do in school,” Boyce said. “It really enriches their education and expands their vision of what is available to them to learn about.

“Our schools can’t do everything for our children – we have a responsibility as well.”

And, of course, the library is continuing their summer reading program, which began June 1.

“It is so, so very important that children continue to read during the summer. It’s the only way they can keep up. And for those who are behind, it’s really important that they practice those skills – actually it’s important for all ages to continue practicing our reading skills,” Boyce said.

Vandersteen agreed, saying that getting adults to read is one of her biggest tasks for the summer, adding that a summer reading program for adults, 18 and older, has also been taking place at the library since June 1, which offers adults a free book bag once they complete 10 books.

“It’s a good way to encourage adults to read, and the book bags are pretty handy things. They can carry their books back and forth,” Vandersteen said. “It encourages them to read during the summer. It encourages them to come by the library and see what else we’ve got going on.”

She said that the library has plenty of programs for adults, such as the CBT Nuggets program, which teaches basic and advanced computer skills.

“Another huge resource for adults we have here are the databases that we as a library are able to subscribe to, like Worldbook, and Homework Louisiana,” she said.

Vandersteen said she believes the library’s resources can be a huge help to nearly anyone.

“Anybody who hasn’t been in a library in the last few years, please come! See what’s going on here, it’s good stuff,” she said. “The resources are huge, and we’re here for the public. I bet we’ve got something for everybody that walks through that door.”

The library is open six days a week, Monday-Saturday, and closes late on Tuesdays and Thursday nights.

For more information on summer programs, or to simply contact the library, call 342-7920.

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