The Stewart C. Meyer Public Library in Harker Heights was not a quiet place on Saturday, but plenty of learning was happening. It was the kick-off party for the annual Central Texas Reading Jamboree, part of Read Across America.

It felt as though Dr. Seuss was in the room, with children creating truffula trees at the crafts table and volunteers donning their best themed gear.

Every child in attendance found a happy niche. The room full of colorful balloons was a popular, and noisy, destination, but parents were having fun, too.

“I enjoy watching kids at these events,” said Susan Crawley of Killeen, who was at the Dr. Seuss party with her 4-year-old son. “The library has good programs for children, and it’s because of things like this that kids learn to enjoy reading. It’s all free, gets the kids out of the house and away from electronics and encourages reading.”

Children’s librarian Amanda Hairston said around 300 people visited the library for the event.

“I think people want a day of whimsy,” she said. “And Dr. Seuss is so universal and his fun appeals to all ages, and that brings people out.”

Hairston said that reading should be celebrated.

“It’s important to celebrate the joy that reading can bring, to make reading a source of joy and fun,” she said. “It sends a powerful message that books are about entertainment and learning. Books are fun.”

Other adults spoke about the opportunities for growth by bringing their little ones to library activities.

“It’s incredibly important for kids to improve social skills and vocabulary, so using Dr. Seuss as a theme gets them engaged,” said Andrea Boen of Harker Heights, watching her granddaughter at the crafts table. “I’m really excited because some kids don’t have the opportunities to do these sorts of activities. The earlier parents start, it lessens the gaps in school later.”

Boen considered the day “a blessing.”

“They’re learning coordination, colors and they’re helping each other and learning from each other, saying ‘Thank you,’ and sharing,” she said.

Many parents at the event were no strangers to the Heights library.

“Any time the library has special events like this they just go all out,” said Shawn Hunt of Harker Heights, who brought his 5-year-old son to the event. “My son is ecstatic to come to the library, even with all the modern technology around us. He’s just excited about reading.”

Hunt said he remembers reading Dr. Seuss as a kid.

“It’s good to see him celebrated and that tradition carried on,” he said.

The Central Texas Reading Jamboree, during which children can earn five free books by visiting five educational locations on the list, ends March 23.

Locations include the Bell County Museum, the Mayborn Science Theater, and the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and libraries in Copperas Cove, Fort Hood, Killeen, Belton, Temple, Salado and college libraries at Central Texas College and Texas A&M Central Texas.

Books are donated by Friends of the Harker Heights Library.

For more information about library events or Reading Jamboree locations, visit the Heights library website: www.ci.harker-heights.tx.us.

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