Clowning around for reading

Published 3:43 pm Friday, January 8, 2010

Juggling pins, red hats and laughter filled Alabaster’s Albert L. Scott Public Library Jan. 8, as a pair of brightly dressed guests led the day’s story time.

Todd Zimmerman and Kirk Marsh, both clowns with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, made a stop at the library to kick off a monthlong reading challenge for local children.

About 30 children and parents crowded into the library as the clown duo performed tricks, read the book “Olivia Saves the Circus,” and joked with the group for about 30 minutes.

“I loved it,” 5-year-old Aldan Rossnagel said after the show, noting he couldn’t pick a favorite part of the performance.

“I liked it all,” he laughed.

The clowns helped the library spread the word about its January reading challenge, said library Youth Services Librarian Frances Smith.

During January, every child who reads at least four books from the library will receive a voucher for free tickets to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which will be performing at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Jan. 27-31.

“The library has joined with the circus to show kids that reading can be fun,” Smith said. “We have books not only on the circus, but also juggling, theatrical makeup and many other things like that.

“This is just a nice, colorful way to get kids excited about reading,” Smith added.

Zimmerman and Marsh routinely travel across the country entertaining children weeks before the circus arrives in town, and take part in reading programs similar to Alabaster’s.

“It’s a great job,” Zimmerman said. “We love every opportunity we get to come out and see the kids and make people laugh. And this program is a great thing to promote.

“All the towns we go to become our homes for a little while,” Zimmerman added, noting he and Marsh were in Florida before coming to Alabama. “We even got to be here to share in the Bama victory last night, so it has really been a fun time.”