Fresh Coast literacy

U.P. Children’s Museum hosts Literacy Night during film festival

Ellison West, 5, of Marquette learns a little sign language during the Fresh Coast Film Reading Night, which took place Thursday at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. The event was in conjunction with the Fresh Coast Film Festival. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — A lot was going on at the Marquette Commons during the opening night of the Fresh Coast Film Festival on Thursday, with movies, food trucks and campers filling the area.

Just a short distance away at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, located at 123 W. Baraga Ave., the festival’s presence was felt during Fresh Coast Film Reading Night.

The event, which was part of Literacy Nights at the museum, was sponsored by the Literacy Legacy Fund of Michigan with assistance from the Marquette County Steelworkers Coalition.

Phyllis A. Aurich, a board member of the Literacy Legacy Fund, met the public in the foyer where free high-quality books were handed out to young preschoolers as well as early and skilled readers. The fund, she said, paid for families’ admissions and donated the books through a grant.

The organization also promotes literacy.

“We just feel it’s important,” Aurich said. “The sale of board books has increased just tremendously.”

As their name says, the books’ pages are made from board, not paper.

The Literacy Legacy Fund’s outreach also goes beyond the children’s museum.

“We do something for the newborns at the hospital: Make sure that they take a book home,” Aurich said. “The whole point is that they should start reading to that child the day they are born. The same goes with music — just keep them interested.”

Various stations with a film theme were set up to entertain and educate youngsters.

In the kitchen area, they had a chance to add flavors to that culinary staple of movies, popcorn. The face-painting station allowed young visitors to “get ready for their close-up.”

The Early Stages Theatre was to give kids a chance to audition for a musical, while set-building was part of the Forest Campfire Movie Set.

By the big airplane in one part of the museum, visitors’ images could be on a big screen with the options of a Mars landscape or other movie choices.

In the toddler area, youngsters had the opportunity to act in a mini-drama as a silent movie star — literally. Northern Michigan University students Destiny Sherbonda and Caleigh Madej taught kids a few sign language words, with Hollywood as the theme in keeping with the Fresh Coast Film Festival vibe.

For example, they could learn how to say “I am a star at school” through signs.

However, Sherbonda and Madej improvised a bit, with Ellison West, 5, of Marquette being taught to sign the sentences: “I like science. When I grow up I want to be an an animal doctor.”

They taught the sentences so kids could understand.

“They can make connections with the actual words,” Madej said.

Sherbonda added: “It’s more fun than actually talking.”

Coming up next at the museum is a Spooky Science Costume Party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, sponsored by NMU student science clubs.

For more information about the U.P. Children’s Museum, visit, call 906-226-3911 or look it up on Facebook.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is