Reading program celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON Teddy Darah, 2, gets some help cutting out the illustration of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Mayor’s Winter Reading Challenge event at Arlington Street Community Center on Monday afternoon.

NASHUA – The Mayor’s Winter Reading Program has been going strong since it kicked off in mid-December and on Monday, the program’s second event took place at the Arlington Street Community Center.

With the challenge’s central theme being diversity, it was only fitting that an event be scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day – a day celebrating the civil rights activist’s birthday, accomplishments and impact on the U.S.

During the event, which included cake and an activity geared toward teaching about King, the children earned a badge for attendance, while enjoying the activity, cake, and a story read by Nashua Public Library Director Jennifer McCormack.

Many of the children said they enjoy the reading program because it is helping them learn, expanding their vocabulary and widening their imaginations. One of the readers Joshua Laureano – who said his favorite type of books are comic books, compared reading books to folk tales.

“Reading books is like folk tales; you always learn something important,” said Laureano, who has earned quite a few badges on the Beanstackapp for the 16 books he has already read.

Pooja Udayakumar, 9, is another participant who said she enjoys the program, which helps readers such as her advance their reading levels. Udayakumar, who has already read 11 books in the program’s initial month, said the challenge and reading in general helps improve vocabulary.

Udayakumar, who plans on adding many more books to her winter reading list, said her favorite part about reading is being able to imagine the most interesting parts of the books while she is reading them.

At the event, the children were able learn about King through the activity provided by the community center; a scene activity made of ice pop sticks, clay and paper which challenged the children to recreate the podium used in King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech.

The small kit came with an illustration of King to be cut out, as well as a page teaching the readers about who he was, what he did to change the world and why his speech was of such importance.

Center Director Megan Caron said it was important that the readers who attended the event were able to learn a bit about the civil rights activist, considering the event took place on the holiday. She said it gave the center an opportunity to do something different in regards to the event.

“We just wanted to do something that was different, Caron said. “Martin Luther King Day is an important day in the city, and we wanted to celebrate with Nashua and its readers in the reading contest.”

So far, the reading challenge has reached 208 children who have already read a total of 964 books. Jennifer McCormack, who read the “The Day You Begin” by Jacquelin Woodson and Rafael Lopez to the attendees, said the program has been very successful over the first month of the challenge, and every week there are more children signing up and participating.

“I will say there are kids registering every week,” McCormack said. “Even this week, I think 20 to 25 kids registered.”

She is most pleased the challenge is getting families to work on family literacy in the winter months when children and their parents are not usually reading together.

“The best part of this program I think, and Beanstack in general, is it’s meant to engage parents and kids together,” McCormack said. “So even the kids in the room today that are in third, fourth, fifth grade that are reading independently, this program focuses on that family literacy, and reading as a family experience.”

During the reading challenge, which runs until March 3, participants can earn badges using the Beanstack app provided by the library. The badges can be earned by reading books, leaving reviews and attending events at the center.

Readers who didn’t attend Monday’s event can still log their accomplishments on the app. The last event for the challenge is scheduled to take place March 9 at the end of the program party at the community center.

Mathew Plamondon may be reached at 594-1244, or at