The Harker Heights Public Library held an Early Literacy fair for children and their parents on Wednesday morning in honor of Harker Heights Book Week. This was the ninth year that the library has held such an event, with about 150 people attending.

Children’s librarian Amanda Hairston said, “It is Harker Heights Book Week (and) an early literacy push. In addition to the program, we do outreaches to Harker Heights schools and (with) Head Start, and the Friends of the Library purchase books for the children (who attend) to take home.”

Vivian Marschik, president of the Friends of the Library, was the first stop for parents and children, handing out totes and free, age-appropriate books for the children.

“The Friends of the Library are happy to provide books for the kids attending the Early Literacy fair,” she said.

The event, designed to target children ages birth to 5 years, also provided pamphlets for parents that were willed with information on early literacy and how to prepare their child for reading.

This year’s theme was “Movin’ and Groovin,” and emphasized learning through play, something the library already does with every children’s program.

“Every single one of our programs integrates early literacy skills and gets our children ready for school,” Hairston said.

“For parents,” Hairston said, “they can learn that they do a lot of this at home and it’s closely related to their children’s success in school.”

The room was set up with different play stations that held toys designed to not only help brain development, but also develop readiness to read. The area for dramatic play, which included dolls and puppets, targeted imagination and oral language and communication skills.

The puzzle station helped hand-eye coordination; the gross motor equipment station, which held items such as gel tiles and plastic stepping stones, helped with balance and coordination, abilities necessary for both writing and reading.

Stroller Strong Moms Fort Hood was also on hand, providing a “sensory walk” for kids, where they were invited to take off their shoes and put their feet into containers holding different substances.

The group is also known as SLAM, or “Sweat Like a Mother.”

Member Amanda Bifulco explained, “We’re a mom’s workout group where we can bring our kids. This sensory walk is one of our favorite play (activities) to do with our kids.”

Kids felt paper, “snow,” and water beads, to name a few items, with their feet, with Bifulco drawing attention to what they were experiencing. It was a very popular station.

The event wrapped up with a lively musical program given by Laura Freeman. She played a number of different instruments and relied on audience participation, with children dancing, clapping, roaring, and singing along through the performance.

“I love working with that age,” Freeman said. “They’re so much fun.”

Ashely Sanchez of Fort Hood brought her daughter, 4-year-old Arianna, to the event.

Sanchez said, “She’s the reason we’re here. She said, ‘It’s the Wednesday fun event!’”

Kristin Marks brought her children, 3-year-old Jonathan and 2-year-old Alexandra; library regulars, they came this time just for the event.

“I think it’s great!” she said of the event. “The books we got were a surprise, and that was wonderful.”

Hairston said, “We did something far different this time, but I really like how it turned out. Since we know children learn through play and new experiences, we wanted to give them that here today — a meaningful and fun morning, emphasis on fun.”

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