This summer children are enjoying a global odyssey at Fireside Books and Gifts in Forest City, N.C. Three Saturdays per month in June, July, and August the store is hosting "Around the World with Fireside Books." Each event focuses on a different country and includes activities inspired by that particular land: story time, crafts, music, food and appearances by authors and other special guests.
The idea came about when store owner Linda Parks, manager Valerie Jones and media specialist Suzanne Ledford were brainstorming for a summer program centered on a theme. "We wanted something that was fun but also educational," said Jones. "We decided it would be interesting and beneficial to expose children to other cultures and show them things about places they might not ever get to visit."
The program is geared toward children aged four to ten, although attendees have ranged from two to 14 years old. A customized "passport" is made for each participant, with his or her picture, and it's stamped for each country they visit. Those who make it to all nine events will receive a prize. "We've had a pretty good return rate on the same children coming back," noted Jones. "Parents are looking for things to do that aren't expensive and that don't require them to travel far."
The ultimate aim of the program is to promote literacy, and at each event a story related to the spotlighted country is read aloud. "We really want to encourage literacy and education and instill in children a love of reading," Jones said.
The Around the World journey kicked off with a visit to Australia, followed by Peru, Japan and France. Last Saturday the featured country was South Africa--with face painting, a "safari" through the store and samples of biltong (beef jerky and dried fruit carried in pouches by warriors) on the agenda. This weekend attendees will voyage to Russia. A Fireside Books employee who lived in Russia for several years will lead the day's festivities, including painting wooden eggs in Fabergé style. "We have a lot of hands-on activities, a lot of participation," Jones said. "Most of the parents stay around in the store during the event, and they seem to be enjoying it just as much as the kids."
While visiting France, children were taught how to count to ten in French, learned the history of medieval coats of arms and the meanings of the different symbols, sampled French bread dipped in chocolate, a traditional afternoon snack for schoolchildren, and were treated to a reading of Bonjour, L'Enfant!: A Child's Tour of France. At the Japan event, a local martial arts expert gave a demonstration. A highlight of the Peruvian adventure was meeting some special guests: author Helen Moore and her husband, Norman Moore, a music teacher at an area school who taught the kids songs about Peru and llamas. After Moore read her book Trek with Floyd, children got acquainted with the story's inspiration, Floyd, a llama.