MARQUETTE - For nearly two decades, Cathy Seblonka has watched children come into her library, read, make friends, learn and grow up.
"I've had a couple kids turn around and now they have their own children and they're bringing them in now," said Seblonka, the youth services librarian at Marquette's Peter White Public Library. "That's just starting to happen."
Prior to Seblonka's arrival at PWPL 18 years ago, a handful of youth programs were in place, but she has made them a priority.
Jenny Frein, program organizer and instructor for After School Art Adventures reads to Phoenix Wasik, 9, Sophie Wasik, 4, Madeline Macaulay, 9, and Ella Wasik, 6, at the Peter White Public Library recently. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
The library has something for virtually every age group. Parents can bring their young children to the infant-focused Book Babies or to a separate reading program for 2- and 3-year-olds. Their is a reading, music and crafts program for 4- and 5-year-olds and a storytelling troupe for fourth- through eighth-graders. For older kids, there is the Teen Advisory Board and the Junior Teen Advisory Board.
"It's not just Marquette-based. We get kids from other schools. We get home-schooled kids, so they are meeting other kids," said Seblonka. "Its a good thing in many, many ways. It makes the kids feel they are a part of the community. They feel like they are making a difference."
Some of the programs involve much more than reading, but she said the goal is always the same.
"We see a need in the community and we try to respond to that need, all the time knowing we are a library and literacy is at the core of it."
Each Thursday, librarian assistant Jenny Frein leads After School Art Adventures, a reading and art program for first- through fifth-graders.
Frein said she gets anywhere from six to 30 kids for the session. She reads a book to the kids and then leads the group through an art project related to the story.
Oftentimes, a project idea will lead her to search for an applicable book, she said. Recently, she had the children make a mobile, with shapes hanging from each side. She taught the concept of balance and read a book about a man walking on a high-wire.
"I think the benefit of having a time devoted to story and art is that kids can be creative," Frein said. "There is a natural connection between reading and art. This allows kids to tell their own stories through art."
Over the past few weeks, Frein and the kids have made sand art, pop-up pages, paintings, chalk drawings and patchwork cloth designs.
Seblonka said Frein does "wonderful things each week." Seeing the kids take part in the sessions, Seblonka said, is extremely satisfying.
"You're giving them a good start in life, a safe haven, a place where they are comfortable," she said. "We're there, hopefully, to help them find something fun and good to read and to fill them that way and bring them into the community in a sense."
A full program schedule can be found online at www.uproc.lib.mi.us/pwpl. Seblonka can also be reached at the library at 226-1783.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is kwhitney@miningjournal. net.