Catching bug for Helena

I am sad to see Helena’s summer reading program come to an end. Although I am a bit older than the average attendee (my son reminds me frequently, “Mom, you are middle-aged!”), I have enjoyed the ‘Catch the Reading Bug’ programs greatly.

As I got the hang of showing up each Wednesday for another day of learning tidbits such as ‘how the termite can be your friend’ and photographing the eager kids participating in the program, I gained new perspective into another reason people love living in Helena.

As the weeks rolled by, I found myself laughing with children who cackled and rolled on the floor, admiring those who danced exuberantly around the room and empathizing with the smaller toddlers who ran to mom in tears when the fireman put that scary gas mask on. I understand those who shyly stroked the boa constrictor with only two fingers and those who adamantly refused to touch a four-inch cockroach — even after learning that it is a clean (but how can we be sure?) biological species!

I have come to recognize the moms, many who home school and probably make learning this much fun year round. I salute Stacey Hawes, the mom who at the very last minute touched the bearded dragon after all and who animatedly chimed in on “The Wheels on the Bus” when Jim Aycock presented his lively musical concert.

Since moving from Mobile, this is the third summer Hawes, husband Don and children Kate, 4, and Will, 6, have lived in Helena.

“I just want my children to be successful readers-because then everything else will fall in place,” Hawes said.

Most of all, I observe that things have changed at the library since I was a kid. Often it seemed I was the only kid in the big one-roomed stone building, staffed by a very stern old woman of gargantuan proportion. Sensitive about keeping the specified silence, I worried about the creaky wooden floorboards on my way over to the shelves with the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew books.

An atmosphere of homey comfort and helpful friendliness pervades our Jane Holmes Public Library. Director Victoria Ashford told me that more than 4,341 books were read by 271 participants during the eight weeks. Super reader, Emilie Mauro, read 500 books to capture the top spot. I will miss this weekly event that has allowed me to capture Helena’s kids joyously live and in color.