Something that happens to me on a regular basis with this project is that I hear about program ideas and immediately think, oh my goodness, I have to replicate that or do something similar at my library/in my art-making practice/etc. When our friend Matt Finch (you remember him, from the Zombies in the Library storytelling event) put me in touch with Tracie Mauro and I heard about the fab programs for kids happening at the Parkes Library in Australia, I promptly put one of them into our fall program lineup. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you librarians and educators and parents will feel similarly! ~ Laura

Artists at work.

Artists at work.

by Tracie Mauro, Parkes Branch Librarian

Parkes Shire Library provides services in a New South Wales rural community of approximately 15,000 people.  For the last few years, we’ve enjoyed challenging the perception of what a library can offer in terms of literacy based activities and stimulating learning through sensory play.

Celebrating after a recent reopening due to ceiling repairs, 7 – 12 year olds were invited to Paint Like Michelangelo.  Telling the kids they were hired to decorate the ceiling, they researched painting and sculpture by Michelangelo, exploring a collection of non-fiction books.

Afterwards, we instructed them to lay beneath the library’s tables, where paper had been securely attached to the underside. Armed with a brush and a colourful palette, their imaginations were released as they painted – upside down, of course! Bread, cheese and “wine” (grape juice) were enthusiastically consumed in the courtyard before concluding the session with a self-portrait.

Our storytelling also pushes the boundaries. 5 – 10 year olds had their senses saturated during a recent session of Polly and the Frog written by our library outreach consultant Matt Finch.

Those brave enough got to touch a real dragon’s scale (made from cardboard, gold paper, and glass beads), blow out candles on a magic cake and squelch their bare feet through a slushy marsh which we’d made from instant chocolate pudding and assorted jelly flavours.

The story was a hit, and as the kids cleaned off their feet afterwards, some of the diehards may even have sneaked a lick of the “marsh pudding” mixture – and requested the recipe!

group time

“Polly and the Frog” circle time.

These wonder-based library programs sparked animated conversation between kids and parents well after the event.

Libraries need to understand literacy in the broadest sense – exploring all of the senses in the way kids and teens relate to the diverse services we have to offer.

Learn more about the Parkes Shire Library.

Even something as straightforward as turning an everyday art activity – painting – topsy-turvy can add a whole new dimension to a program. How are you invigorating the senses at your library? Tell us; we’re dying to hear and share your stories:

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