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FOR THE KIDS

Booked for Trips to Far-Off Lands

Children's librarian leads youngsters on craft-making journeys.

September 18, 1997|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Theresa Robinett, children's librarian at the Glendale Central Library, knows a way to make a functioning Pinocchio doll.

"His nose grows," she says mysteriously.

Robinett, though descended from a long line of librarians, trained as a graphic designer before entering what she calls "the family business." She has applied her artistic skills to the task of putting together several dozen "kits" this week so that children coming to the library Saturday afternoon can make their very own prevaricating puppets.

The event, which she explained involves "assembling and dressing the doll," is part of a program called "Passport Adventures." Four-year-olds who attend the program can put together a craft project and listen to stories from other nations--on Saturday it will be Italy.

The craft project this time is based on the well-known Italian children's story by Carlo Collodi--so well-known that Robinett plans to read several other tales for the storytelling part of the program. One will be about a witch, "Strega Nona," by Tomie de Paola, and one will be a folk tale called "The Golden Lion."

Robinett's skills at crafts and storytelling have, over the past few years, attracted hundreds of kids to this series of "adventures." All children attending will be issued a "passport" that will be stamped at each event.

On subsequent Saturdays this fall, songs, stories and crafts from Mexico, Scotland, Scandinavia and other places will be featured. The schedule after New Year's includes West Africa, China, India and South American countries.

The program on Mexico will feature folk-art skeletons and the stories "Maya's Children" and "The Woman Who Outshone the Sun." The Scottish-themed event will involve youngsters' assembling what Robinett calls "woolly sheep" and listening to "The Seal Bride" and "The Laird of Cockpen."

The culture of Scandinavian nations will be explored during her Christmas-season event, and "Nail Soup," by Margo Zemach, is on the schedule. The craft project will be paper bird ornaments.

Robinett has discerned a certain pattern in children's behavior at these Saturday events. As a librarian, she's committed to getting the kids to want to check out the books themselves, which they often do in summer, when there are no craft events. It seems that during the vacation period, when youngsters don't have to read books, they want to. But during the school year, when reading assignments are being handed out, it's necessary to add another element to keep kids coming to the library.

Voila! "Passport Adventures."

The only problem, she said, is that the craft projects distract the kids to the point that they may forget to check out the books.

But, she reflects, "At least they keep coming back to [a] library regularly. So we're doing something right."

For those curious about how the nose on the Pinocchio doll will "grow" on Saturday, here's a hint: It involves a drinking straw. Don't ask any more questions. Just take your kids to the library.

BE THERE

"Passport Adventures," for kids 4 and older, with crafts and story readings featuring various nations (Saturday it's Italy), at the Glendale Central Public Library, 222 E. Harvard St., Saturday, 2-3 p.m., free, information: (818) 548-2035.

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