There were no lions, tigers or bears, but there were a ferret, guinea pig and tortoise at the Washington Public Library on Tuesday, July 9, when members of the Blank Park Zoo visited for the summer reading program.
More than 500 kids and adults arrived at the library and filled the presentation room and spilled into the hallways to see animals and listen in. Washington Public Library Children’s Librarian, Jenisa Harris, said the Blank Park Zoo event is always well attended, but this was by far the largest turnout she’s ever had for any summer reading program special presentation.
Bringing the zoo to the library, she said, is something she is proud to be able to do because it provides easy access for kids who may not have the opportunity to travel.
“That’s one of my huge goals as a librarian is for people to see so many different acts and activities,” she said. “I feel like kids love animals, even adults, and it’s fun to have an interactive show where they get to see animals, ask questions and learn about them.”
The added benefit of having the show in the library, she said, is the plethora of books available on a variety of animal-related topics that she hopes encourages kids to read and research.
“It’s getting them to be interested in animals. We have tons of animal books downstairs. so if they love learning more about the ferret or the turtle, they are able to get resources,” she said.
Bethany Doorenbos, of Washington, said she brings her kids to the library often and especially makes a point to go when they have fun activities, like the Blank Park Zoo, for her kids to enjoy.
“I think experiences are always really valuable and learning new things and seeing things you wouldn’t see at home,” she said.
Kids in the YMCA Day Camp came out to enjoy the show as well and it was something they had been looking forward to. Jenna Chance, camp counselor with the group, said she felt getting the kids involved in the community events was important because it offered them experiences outside of what the Y already offers and gave them a chance to learn something new.
Cheyenne Bogart, an Interactive Educator with the Blank Park Zoo, said she does between five and 10 shows a week and travels all over the state and even into Missouri. She brings four animals every time, and does not know which ones she is bringing until the day of the event.
Providing a safe, personal experience for the kids is her goal. Bogart said attending events like these when she was a kid helped her realize her dream of wanting to work in a zoo one day.
“I think it’s important that kids learn about nature, and I think it’s important that they find that connection to nature, because nature’s all around us and we should be able to learn about it in a safe atmosphere,” she said. “I hope that they get inspired to want to learn more about the natural world around them.”