Chuck Galey

Author • Illustrator • Teaching Artist • Speaker

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Beinville Parish Library System- Day #1
Arcadia, Louisiana- I drove over to here to the western parishes of Louisiana yesterday, yes, on July 4th, to get ready for the two days of library visits at the Beinville Parish Libraries. Usually, I don’t travel on a holiday, but the program was booked for July 5th, so I had to get over here to be ready for an early morning preparation. That’s how it goes sometimes.
Cheryl Hough models her Libraries Rock uniform.
Beinville Parish Libary Rocks!
  My first library presentation was at the main library in Arcadia. There, I met Cheryl Hough for the first time. Whenever a librarian gets into the character of the theme of the summer program, you never know what to expect. There was Cheryl in full 50s themed poodle skirt, white blouse with a monogrammed “C” on the upper right, saddle oxford shoes with bobby socks. She looked like she just came from a stage production of Grease!
  Of course, she was perfect to use during the program with the Rock’N’Roll Dogs book that I illustrated. She was a perfect example of what those kid’s great-grandmothers looked like when they were in high school. What a soda parlor, sock-hop vision she was!
Robin Word wears her hi-tops as if she was about to break out in a dance from West Side Story.

  Next stop was Ringgold Public Library. The crowd was a little older this time and much more curious about drawing. These kids were a fun group to work with because they were not afraid to speak right up.
  When I was showing them my favorite book when I was four years old, Color Kittens, they asked me to read the book to them.
The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. Yes, THAT Margaret Wise Brown, author of Good Night Moon.
So, I began reading about the adventures of Brush and Hush, the color kittens. They mixed all kinds of colored paint to mix up various colors all the while looking for the color green. One of the more rambunctious boys described his experience with color when he stated that when you pee into blue toilet water, it makes green! Well what do you know? You never know when an arts integration lesson rears its head. From a writer’s point of view, this little boy was talking about an honest experience about color. His experience… in his voice! You can’t write this kind of stuff.
  Tomorrow is another day in beautiful Beinville Parish.


Beinville Parish Library System- Day #2
Kaitlyn Bryan shows off the Castor Library's temporary address while the real library building receives a make-ove and an addition.   My second day in Beinville Parish took me to the Castor community in Southwest Beinville Parish. The BPLS is building an addition to the library in Castor, so we had our presentation in the Castor Community Center.
  It was a varied age crowd and a bit unruly. When you get a range of kids in one group, it’s hard to swing the focus of the program in so many directions to keep them engaged. Toddlers tend to wander off to their parents–their attention span is ten minutes, by the way. Older kids want to try to learn to draw. So many at that age want to try to learn to draw, but don’t know how to get started. My hope is that I can give them some kind of direction by demonstrating drawing and seeing techniques.
The place on a lonely Louisiana State Hwy. where depression era bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down.
  Along the way to my next (and last) presentation in Saline, I came across the place where the notorious outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow–aka: Bonnie and Clyde–were gunned down. And, yes, the granite marker to the left is really there. These two outlaws are so entrenched in American criminal lore that the whole of Beinville Parish cashes in on their fame. There are festivals and all sorts of things in Beinville Parish based on the fact that Bonnie and Clyde were killed on a lonely state highway in that parish running from the coppers. It’s amazing… simply amazing.

Susie Graham shows off the front of the Saline Branch Library.   The last presentation of the day was at Saline. There, Cheryl and I ate lunch at the local diner, The Munch Box. There. all sorts of people come wandering in. From towns folk to passers-through, it’s a popular place to eat in the fine township of Saline.
  By the way, Saline is the watermelon capital of Louisiana. I just missed their Watermelon Festival by a week, July 12-15.
  At the Saline Branch Library, there was a nice crowd of parents and kids. We drew funny instruments, we laughed, and then we drew some more funny pictures. Cheryl gave out door prizes to the kids based on a drawing. Then, my time at the Beinville Parish Library System had come to an end. It was time to drive home to Jackson.
  But before I left, the Saline Librarian gave me a parting gift. You guessed it… a huge WATERMELON!
  So long Beinville Parish until next time!


Fannie Lou Hamer Library
Jackson, Mississippi- Today is my final library visit of the summer. My friend Rosemary Luckett is the Director at the Fannie Lou Hamer Library. She has asked me to join her Summer Reading Program this year. So, since this is in Jackson, it would only be a morning’s program and not too much traveling at all.
Rosemary Luckett, Director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Library, shows off the library's exterior signage.
  I drove over to the library to set up. I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a community center building with room for a small branch library. I was ushered into a large open area where the program would take place.
  When the kids began to arrive, I saw that it was three groups of day care kids with ages ranging from four to nine… tough crowd. Those ages are hard to do a program for because the four year olds have an attention span of less than a minute. The older ones seem to catch on pretty quick that this is a drawing exercise. The younger ones do not have the motor skills, so I’m not sure what they are going to get out of the program.
  But, I proceed.
  As the program went on, I found myself changing up the pattern on the fly. Some things worked and others didn’t. With this span of ages, it’s hard to tell what’s going to work.
  By the end of the program, I think most of the kids got a little something out of the time we had together. I hope so. If nothing else, they got to come to the library. Hopefully, this could become a habit to them.
  I appreciate Miss. Rose inviting me to her library.


Summer Reading Programs in review
  With the end of my summer travel, I look back over the past month and a half to see what’s what.
  As I look back over the summer so far, the highlights were the Whole School Initiative Summer Institute on the Gulf Coast and the one day trip to the ALA Exhibit Floor at the national convention. These two events were well worth my time and effort to put my best foot forward.
  The downside of the summer, has been the library reading programs. In my opinion, the programs have suffered a bit due to other events and schedules competing with a library program. In the south, Vacation Bible School in June is huge. Throw in swim teams, football, baseball, basketball, and cross-country running camps that are also a big draw. Of course, family vacations take precedent during this time of year.
  All of this makes the library programming need to be more entertaining in nature than informative. Clowns, magicians, singers, the snake man, zoos, puppet shows and storytellers are all available for hiring. Some even do presentations for free whether they’re a government agency, a public relations arm of some organization, or, and this part really gets to me, they do the programs for free because it’s a hobby.
  To say the least, budgets are always under attack, so the librarians need to justify the fees by keeping up with the attendance. So, an entertaining program is always popular and draws pretty large numbers.
  Learning to draw is not considered entertainment as much as it’s considered informative. So, I’ve seen my bookings drop over the past five years. Maybe the times have changed. Or, maybe I've just lost a step or two.
  So, I'm reconsidering continuing summer reading programs and travel. I’ll think about it over the coming months to see if there is something else I should be doing. In the mean time, I’ll just keep on drawing and painting on my picture books. That should keep me very busy.