Odds are that you’re a card-carrying member of your local library, and that you’ve discovered its extensive selection of paleo cookbooks or well-chewed board books or
Janet Evanovich National Book Award Winner audio books. Odds are also that your local library has much, much more to offer than “just” books and periodicals and free Wi-Fi. Some of our communities’ most engaging and creative events are sponsored by libraries: lectures, children’s summer camps, live music events, and MacGyver-esque competitions–arguably the most famous of which involves tiny gelatinous chickens.
I was generously asked to help judge our local library’s fifth annual Peeps Story Contest two Sundays ago (I know, timely reporting, right? As usual, I #blametheunbornbaby). Constructing dioramas out of those spring time marshmallow treats has practically become a national coming-of-age experience. Libraries and newspapers throughout the country challenge participants to recreate a scene from a book or movie or newsworthy event using bunny or chick Peeps as characters or props. A common theme from the Washington Post‘s annual competition was the animated film Inside Out. The winner was a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the 2012 London Olympics–complete with a Queen Elizapeeps II parachuting onto the track as nearby hurdling Peeps competed.
The Mary Riley Styles Public Library’s competition favored Star Wars. Two winners–who each went home with a gold bunny Peep statuette lovingly hand-crafted by a local resident–replicated scenes from The Force Awakens with painstaking detail. (If you haven’t seen a marshmallow bunny piloting a three-dimensional Rebel X-Wing Starfighter made out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, you might as well have skipped the movie.) Other winners included an intricately-crafted scene from The Magic Tree House series (complete with a Lego tree house perched atop swaying paper palm fronds) and every toddler’s favorite: Chicka Peepa Boom Boom. Yes.
Reflecting in awe at the time, energy, and creativity that these children put into these projects, I was struck for the 792nd time by the power of art. When I was young, my artist mother dedicated an entire linoleum-tiled room to our (and her) arts and crafts. We could paint, glue, glitter, sketch, and sculpt to our hearts’ content–and we did. The connection between literacy and art is a no-brainer (B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures aside, find me a non-chapter book without photos or illustrations…), and we’ve compiled a list of a few simple, non-over-achieving art/literacy projects for you to try with your cherubs. Have fun reading and creating!
Paint with feathers and make “cloud paint” to accompany Birds, by Kevin Henkes
Watercolor dot art to accompany The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
Wooden spoon puppets to accompany Spoon, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Paper plate art to accompany The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister
Dot sticker books to accompany Press Here, by Herve Tullet
Macaroni snowflakes to accompany Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Color mixing to accompany Little Blue and Little Yellow, by Leo Lionni
Magazine collages to accompany the Knuffle Bunny series, by Mo Willems
Paper bag mask to accompany Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Button cookies to accompany Corduroy, by Don Freeman
Photo credit: Mary Riley Styles Public Library