By Samantha Stauch*
HOUGHTON --Portage Lake District Library Community Program Director Chris Alquist walks over to her desk, places a hand on the caterpillar cage and peers at the inhabitants. Alquist speaks of the animals in her care with a voice full of love and awe. It is clear to anyone within earshot that Alquist truly cherishes the creatures.
During the Portage Lake District Library's June 12 Summer Reading Program open house, Community Program Director Chris Alquist, right, helps young people and their parents sign up for the program. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
Today, Alquist sat down to discuss the Summer Reading Program. Free to children of all ages, the program's theme this year is "Make a Splash at Your Library: Dive into a Good Book!" The Summer Reading Program has been providing events that encourage children to keep diving into books all summer long.
"It gives kids the chance to get to be with other kids," Alquist said. "It is a memory-building experience and enriches their lives. It’s an opportunity to move away from the TV."
Alquist has all sorts of plans to accomplish these goals. From picnics to animal visits, Alquist has compiled a diverse menu of summer activities to serve the children, youths and parents who frequent the community’s library.
"The library has to be a lot of things to a lot of people," Alquist explained.
The Houghton High School Key Club will continue to host Summer Reading Program storytimes on Thursday, Aug. 5, and Thursday, Aug. 19. Alquist's colleague Maria Silva will host the regular storytimes. All storytimes take place from from 11 a.m. to noon each Thursday.
One of Silva's storytimes could feature a live llama if Alquist succeeds in finding transportation for the creature. Alquist has identified someone who is willing to share their llama, but she hasn't quite worked out how to get the llama to the library. She needs someone with a trailer.
"Books are so special and an absolute treasure," Alquist said. "Being able to bring a child to a place where there are so many good books is the best gift we can give our children."
As Alquist walks toward the exit she stops at the children’s book area and gazes out the window at the Summer Reading Program’s garden. Alquist wonders out loud why the garden has not been growing. She then silently ponders for a moment and gives the strong impression that this challenge is next on her list -- how to stimulate growth in that garden.
Like someone who loves to garden or nurture creatures, Alquist lovingly tends the Summer Reading Program so that whoever walks through the library doors will receive the nourishment that only reading and literacy can provide.
For more information about Portage Lake District Library, visit their Web site.
*Editor's Note: Guest reporter Samantha Stauch is a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech University.