Like a true superhero, New Haven police Officer Liz Marie Almedina extended her open palms as Wray Williams, the ranger for the East Rock Environmental Center, created a hand-bridge for a giant, hairy tarantula spider that walked across it with a certain cinematic grace.
“Are you afraid?” yelled one of the many children who looked on in wide-eyed amazement.
Almedina was one of several real-life superheroes who attended Fair Haven Library’s superhero-themed Summer Reading Challenge kick-off party, held outside the library Thursday. The event was a celebration of real-life community heroes “and the hard work that they do everyday to keep us safe, healthy, and happy,” said childrens’ librarian Tatiana Arias O’Connor.
The event was also a celebration of literacy, as children and their parents lined up to receive a free book and a log to record their summer reading and library activities. Sandra Hernandez-Laguna, the library branch’s manager, said children earn points and stickers and are placed in a raffle for a Barnes and Noble gift card awarded at summer’s end during the program’s closing party.
Hernandez-Laguna noted that the program, billed as a summer reading challenge for ages 0-99 years, accounts for differing reading and interest levels. Magazines, comic books, and any additional books not on the reading list can accrue points. Participants have additional options, too: They can draw a picture or write alternative endings for books and stories they have read.
The library summer reading challenge is held across cities and states and joins the public schools and other programs that work to maintain and improve reading levels over the summer. Branch manager Hernandez-Laguna said the library has programs slated for every day of the summer including several “Superheroes in the Library” days, (July 16, and August 6 at 6PM) in which a costumed superhero will read to children. For a list of NHFPL programs and a calendar of upcoming events click here.
Williams (pictured above) brought along a few friends from the Environmental Center, including a colorfully banded Pueblan milk snake that elicited a stare-down with one of the young readers as O’Connor facilitated the eyeball-to-eyeball encounter.
Children were excited to pose with city police officers Leonardo and Almedina.
Scoring a book that she said was one of her favorites was Serenity, a second grader at Bishops Woods Elementary School.
Mathew Velasco, 5, of Benjamin Jepson Magnet School, took home a copy of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble book, chock full of superheroes…
… while Karon, a third-grader at Fair Haven School, tipped his hat to a chapter book, The Mark of Athena.
About that fuzzy tarantula Almedina held? She had a simple answer to the question about whether she was afraid.
“I wasn’t scared — it tickled,” she said with a broad smile.