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Monday January 22, 2001

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The Joy of Reading

Headline Photo


Alina Twist, UofA Bookstore assistant marketing, reads to Theresa Taylor, age 3, during the monthly Wildcats Advocating Literacy for Kids (WALK) program yesterday. The next WALK program is Feb. 18th.

By Benjamin Kim

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Story time, crafts help push for children's literacy at UofA

Tucked away in a blue and red balloon-decorated corner of the UofA Bookstore, five children sit on miniature wooden stools no higher than a foot off the ground, yet their short legs dangle and swing back and forth.

Alina Twist also sits on a miniature chair in front of the group, her adult frame bent high at the knees.

She opens a book and rests it upright on her lap so the children can see the colorful illustrations. Before Twist, a non-degree-seeking student, begins reading "The Scrambled States of America" by Laurie Keller, she asks the children if they know what state they live in.

After her mother reminds her, four-year-old Emily Rutan gives a timid answer. "We live in Tucson, Arizona."

Similar scenes repeat about once a month, when the UofA Bookstore organizes the Wildcats Advocating Literacy for Kids (WALK) program, an interactive storytelling time for children followed by an arts and crafts session.

"I think the kids and families should get a fun introduction to reading and learning in general from (WALK)," Twist says.

At yesterday afternoon's session, the theme was U.S. states.

"I think it's neat," says Emily's father, Neil, who is currently studying political science at the UA. His three other children also participated in the program.

"They've been playing all morning long," he says. "We just stopped by to pick up some books, and someone told us they were having this program, so we decided to stick around."

The program, which began in July, draws about five or six children between the ages of 3 and 11 to each session. Some come back for more sessions.

Program organizers usually try to have a special guest drop by for the hour-long program. Last semester, Wilbur the Wildcat, a high school football player and a children's author stopped in to participate.

"We really pride ourselves on outreaching to the campus community and the community at large," says Twist, the bookstore's assistant marketing specialist. "One of those groups we really haven't been reaching is children, and this is a way to reach out to kids, as well as students, faculty, staff and anyone in the surrounding community who wants to come down on campus to see what it's all about."

The WALK program was instituted to introduce faculty members and their children to the general books department of the bookstore, says Beth Bujarski, marketing specialist.

"I'm amazed at how good the kids are," Bujarski says. "They're all good listeners, and they all seem to enjoy the experience, even though they're not focusing at all times."

Bujarski says most of the parents are staff and faculty, but some students also drop by with their children as well. She said she hopes to attract a larger group to the sessions. The next WALK session is Feb. 18.

Kathy Hubenschmidt, a 46-year-old single mother, brought her three-year-old daughter, Theresa Taylor, to her third session yesterday.

"It's been small, but it's actually been kind of nice because there aren't so many kids around, so you can see what's going on," says Hubenschmidt, a curator for the Arizona State Museum.

"Theresa loves coming over here, and she wonders whether we're going to story time," she says.

At the end of the arts and crafts session, the children ate crackers and juice before jumping up and cheering when Twist began handing out balloons.

"Hopefully, a lot of these kids will be college students someday," Twist says. "Some of the kids may have never been on a college campus before, but this program is about getting them used to being around higher education."