Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum is adding a small library to its Center Street site and will allow free admission for residents from certain communities on Thursdays through the summer, while a Tuesday event will bring together focus on reading with free admission.
In July and through the end of this month, admission has been free on Thursdays and will continue through the end of August for residents of Rutland City, Rutland Town, West Rutland, Chittenden, Mendon and Poultney.
Danielle Monroe, executive director of Wonderfeet, said “Thank You Thursdays” were intended to recognize the municipalities where Wonderfeet was placed on the Town Meeting Day ballot and supported by voters for funding though an appropriation.
“As a thank you for all of those towns for financial support, we are giving all of the residents free admission to the museum on Thursdays during the summer,” Monroe said.
On Tuesday, storyteller Doug Wilhelm, of Weybridge, will make a presentation to the families and children who attend the day’s event, sponsored by one of two grants from the Children’s Literacy Foundation.
Admission to Wonderfeet will be free from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Monroe said.
“All the kids will go home with free books, and we’ll have books for a wide variety of age ranges available that day, from the earliest pre-school readers up through junior high school students. There will be books that appeal to older students,” Monroe said.
Wilhelm, who said he had lived in Rutland Town for about 15 years before moving to Addison County, said he generally keeps his presentations short because his young audience is generally eager to get their hands on the two books each of them will get to take home.
A writer of young adult novels, Wilhelm, whose son Brad went to Rutland High School, said the books he writes are frequently not on display when he does a presentation at a venue like Wonderfeet that mostly appeals to children in grade school. But there’s still “quite a selection” of books, he said.
“My job, the way I approach it, is that I want to have a conversation with the kids about kids’ books. I want to introduce them to the books we have so I kind of orient them, ‘Here’s the little kids’ books, here’s the older books, here’s the middle chapter books.’ I ask them if they have a favorite book, if they have a favorite author, a favorite series. Often they do, and we’ve got it,” he said.
Wilhelm has written 14 books for middle-grade readers. His most popular book, “The Revealers,” deals with bullying and has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in more than 1,000 schools.
Wilhelm said he can often recommend authors or books based on other materials his young readers already like.
The Children’s Literacy Foundation, which uses the acronym CLiF, sponsors a “mini-libary” as well. Monroe said a reading nook will be installed upstairs at Wonderfeet with about 130 books.
“When kids are in, if they want to sneak upstairs and have some quiet time or just want to be able to read, we’ll have that there,” Monroe said.
With more focus on reading and literacy activities, Monroe said Wonderfeet staff members will look for volunteers to lead storytime events throughout the year.
Erika Nichols-Frazer, communications manager for CLiF, which is based in Waterbury Center, said the foundation has done many projects in Rutland County.
“We’ve partnered with museums in the past to try to expand programming into literacy. We think it ties in really well to their mission to educate, and we’re happy to serve the children of Rutland County. We know it’s a high-poverty area that definitely has a lot of need. Our mission is to serve and to inspire a love or reading and writing in low-income, at-risk and rural kids in both Vermont and New Hampshire. We serve kids 12 and under so we think partnering with Wonderfeet is a great way to reach these kids,” she said.
The mini-libary is expected to be in place by fall.
“Because we partner with schools and we have a home school club that meets at the museum, reading has always been a big part of what we do but adding the library and having these storytelling events … really deepens that commitment to early childhood literacy,” Monroe said.
Monroe said Rutland Free Library has a strong partnership with Wonderfeet.
The foundation has sponsored a second storyteller event that will be scheduled in fall, probably in November, according to Monroe. That event will include a coaching component for parents who want to learn more about how they can help their children develop early literacy habits and “foster a love of reading,” she said.