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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and where better to promote this but where children go to participate in weekly programs than the Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library?

Ksenia Strakhova and Kendra Cleveland from Carus Kids Dental in Killeen stopped by the library to help promote dental health during Preschool Story Time on Thursday morning. “The library reached out to us and asked us to do the presentation in the month of February,” Strakhova said.

“We like to do presentations, teaching kids when they’re young about the importance of brushing and flossing,” added Cleveland. “If you catch them at a young age, they won’t be afraid of brushing, flossing, the dentist, or the dental assistant.”

Youth health and program coordinator Destinee Barton was leading the story time on Thursday. “It’s going to be a really short story time because they (Carus Kids) brought a lot of activities for them. (Children) need to understand how important dental hygiene is …”

More than 40 people turned out for the special program, mostly children. Along with the usual songs, such as “The Teddy Bear Song,” Barton read the book “Tusk! Tusk!” by Annie Mitra. In it, elephant has to go to the dentist due to a toothache right before his birthday party. There he learns he has a cavity due to his love of jellybeans, and is given advice from the dentist on how to properly care for his teeth.

Barton kept every child engaged throughout the story with not only herdynamic storytelling, but also by asking everyone thoughtful questions throughout the story. Questions such as “How often should you brush?” showed many of them already knew that the answer is twice a day, and also showed that children were paying close attention to the book as it was being read.

Children also enjoyed singing the “Brush Your Teeth” song, which was sung to the tune of “Row, Row Your Boat” and was a catchy way to remember that brushing and flossing should occur twice a day, reinforcing the theme of the book and introducing the presentation by the Carus professionals.

Strakhova showed everyone a giant model of teeth and demonstrated the correct way to brush — using circular motions, being sure to hit the fronts and backs of the teeth, inside and outside, of both the upper and lower teeth. Cleveland reminded everyone to also brush cheeks and tongues, too.

Then Strakhova colored in some of the teeth with a marker, which served to imitate plaque; children were all given the opportunity to use the oversized brush to clean the “plaque,” demonstrating what they’d learned and getting to see firsthand the stains being erased.

There was also a game where children had to identify healthy snacks. They were shown items such as different fruits and vegetables (all good snacks) and chips and cookies (bad snacks); Strakhova and Cleveland pointed out that even unhealthy snacks are okay in moderation, but stressed the importance of brushing after eating them.

Hannah Lapehn drove her son, 3-year-old Jamey, all the way from Kempner to participate. She said of the program, “I loved it! I didn’t know it would be educational--there was more than we expected.”

Barton said, “It was a good turnout. (Children) were able to brush the teeth, which helped put it (all) into perspective. They (also) learned it’s okay to have some sweet stuff, but in moderation, and to brush after.”

“They (the Heights library) have the best resources, best programs, best books … (The drive) is totally worth it,” said Lapehn.

Preschool Story Time is intended for children 3 to 6 years of age, and is held every Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

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