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Marshall Public Library: Carnival gets summer reading program off to a fun start

Thursday, June 13, 2013

James Allen, 8, plays a giant version of Bananagrams on the parking lot of the Marshall Public Library Thursday, June 13, during the library's Summer Reading program kickoff event.
(Carlos Restrepo/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
During a warm afternoon Thursday, June 13, approximately 150 children and adults flocked to the Marshall Public Library's parking lot for the official start of the 2013 Summer Reading program.

The event was staged like a carnival, with face painting, games, soda pop, hotdogs and popcorn that kept children smiling throughout the evening.

"The best thing about this event is that most of these are familiar faces," said Molly Johnson, who works as a children's storyteller at the MPL. "It's the summer time, and they have so many options, it's nice to see them coming back to the library."

Secretary of State Jason Kander speaks during the Marshall Public Library's Summer Reading kick off event Thursday, June 13.
(Carlos Restrepo/Democrat-News)
The evening was planned for the kids, who received free hot dogs prepared by the Marshall Optimist Club.

"That's really our focus -- we are friends of the youth," said Kenneth Clause, of the Optimist Club, as he grilled hot dogs. "Anytime we can help out with the kids, we are eager to."

About an hour after the start of the festivities, children began to gather on the lawn next to the library to listen to internationally acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning storyteller Bobby Norfolk, a St. Louis native.

"People should know the human brain is hardwired for stories," Norfolk said in an interview before his performance. "Going back all the way to the beginning of mankind, stories were always present. Even when I go to places like Hong Kong, Wales or Singapore, everybody listens to a story the same way."

Emmy-winning storyteller Bobby Norfolk performs stories for children during the Marshall Public Library's 2013 Summer Reading kick off event Thursday, June 13.
(Carlos Restrepo/Democrat-News)
Before Norfolk took to the stage, however, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander gave an opening speech.

"The reason I'm here is because under the Secretary of State's office is the State Library, which funds the reading program, and we are here to kick that off," Kander said.

Kander said he wanted to take the opportunity, "if the kids would put up with me for a minute," to talk about the mission of the Secretary of State's office.

"The Secretary of State's office is really there to promote open and honest government and provide information to the public," Kander said.

Norfolk then took the stage after Kander, performing several traditional stories with a twist, often in the form of songs.

Norfolk's facial expressions, sound effects and movement kept the children, and adults, captivated and bursting in laughter throughout the show.

In an interview, Kander said events like Marshall's summer reading programs is what makes a strong library and community.

"There's just so many great resources at your local library, and what we try to do through the State Library and our office is everything we can to support local libraries," Kander said. "This is a great local library here in Marshall and I would just encourage parents to come here and learn more about the resources that are available for their kids."

Library Director Wicky Sleight said 51 people signed up for the summer reading program at the event, adding to the 56 who had previously signed up. Sleight said the event was a success.

"I thought it was fabulous," Sleight said. "I know they all enjoyed it. We all had our favorites. The face painter was wonderful. The storyteller was marvelous. He had so much energy, he's such an entertainer."

Sleight thanked everyone who made the event possible for their help, and said there was still more room for volunteers to help at the library throughout the summer.

"We thank all of our volunteers and our staff worked so hard and they were back at it this morning," Sleight said. "You can do your job one day and there is more to do the next."

Contact Carlos Restrepo at crestrepo@marshallnews.com

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