“How – do you -wokka-wokka?” author Elizabeth Bluemle chanted rhythmically to the beat of a drum. Kids at the Bobbin Mill apartment complex danced, shimmied and shook maracas as she continued,” I wokka-wokka like flamingos in a flocka- croackie-yocka, leggy-longy, pinky hoppa-hoppa…”
Elizabeth’s performance was the perfect antidote for the muggy, drizzly summer evening. The kids, freshly released for summer vacation, were eager to actively participate and get some new books to use throughout the summer.
This visit to Bobbin Mill in Burlington was the fourth and final as part of a pilot Year of the Book program in housing units. In addition to $2,000 worth of new books to the apartment’s community room, Bobbin Mill received four programs and four book giveaways. CLiF partnered with different authors to deliver new and interesting programming to the children in the complex. As the program coordinator overseeing the project, I was able to attend all four programs and get to know the kids over the course of the year.
The fall kicked off with CLiF Executive Director Duncan McDougall telling stories and presenting the facility with their new, mylar covered books. Although only a few kids and parents attended, they were all thrilled to get to choose two books to take home.
In February, poet Geof Hewitt lead a poetry slam for elementary school kids during mid-winter break. First, he gave the kids prompts and exercises to get the creative juices flowing. Then we all shared our poems slam-style. I was blown away by some of the material the kids came up with!
Storyteller Simon Brooks came in April as part of a cultural diversity celebration. Bobbin Mill has a very diverse population of New Americans from Bhurma, Bhutan, Somalia, and other locations. Simon shared stories from Ireland and China and residential coordinator Mariah Ogden made food from her family’s homeland, Puerto Rico.
At each of these events, the attendance slowly grew and our presence more recognizable. All the kids who attended the events grew their own libraries with books of their choosing. Throughout the year, kids asked me for certain titles to bring next time, and I tried to honor the requests as best I could.
Our last event was bittersweet – I realized I was really going to miss these kids that I had grown to know over the past nine months. After the event, the skies cleared and the kids ran out to the playground. I was thrilled to see that one by one, they all settled into a carefully chosen spot and cracked opened their new books. It was a wonderful image to leave with.