By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — In which state was the Declaration of Independence signed?
Mount St. Helen erupted in 1980 in which state?
Which state was the last of the 13 original colonies?
These are just three of the 12 geography questions included in the Colfax Public Library’s “Reading Road Trip Challenge.”
Jolene Albricht, youth services librarian, wrote the questions for the Reading Road Trip Challenge and designed the activity to help youngsters learn more about geography.
“We want to draw them into reading, and what a good way to learn how to research,” she said.
The Reading Road Trip Challenge is open to children of all ages but might be particularly helpful to fifth grade students at Colfax Elementary who are studying geography.
The Colfax library has story-time activities for younger children and the teen book club for youth readers, so the Reading Road Trip Challenge is intended to be an activity for those “in between” kids, Albricht said.
“They get to pick a prize from our big prize basket when they have completed the 12 questions in the challenge,” she said.
A variety of prizes are included in the prize basket, such as books, small toys, backpack water bottles, coloring books, colored pencils and candy.
The youngsters who complete the Reading Road Trip Challenge then have their names put into a drawing for a pair of movie tickets for the theater in Menomonie.
The Reading Road Trip Challenge had its first three winners on Wednesday, January 24.
Albricht had attended a workshop at the Eau Claire public library where library staff presented different ideas for library activities, and the Eau Claire library had done something similar.
“I wanted to make it something fun and not make it like homework. I wanted it to be a challenge,” she said.
“For a lot of the children, I just go directly to them and ask if they would like to do this Reading Road Trip Challenge,” Albricht said.
“I emphasize that it is something they can work on by themselves. They can use the Internet. They can use books. Maps. Or you can work on it as a family. If you have an older brother or sister, or your mom or dad, you can all work on it together. Or if you have a younger brother and sister, you can work on it with them, too,” she said.
To provide additional resources for the Reading Road Trip Challenge, Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library, ordered a table-sized map of the United States as well as several atlases geared toward children and a talking globe that speaks when it is touched with a stylus.
After Road Trip Challenge participants have answered the questions, they also must find the state on a blank map of the United States that makes up the last page of the Challenge.
Albricht said she learned quite a lot in researching and writing the questions.
“It was fun,” she said.
The library’s high school employee also worked on researching questions.
“So we were both learning,” Albricht said.
“We don’t mind if the parent works with the child. The idea is to promote research, to check resources, to find the information,” Hurlburt said.
“Computers are great, but that’s not the only source for information. There’s globes and maps and books,” she said.
One little boy asked Albricht if she would help him get started on the Reading Road Trip Challenge.
“So I told him, you read the first question. He did, and he said, ‘Declaration of Independence.’ By him looking at the question and reading it, he picked out what was the most important part to him, the part that stuck out in his mind, and decided, ‘I can look that up.’ So that’s what he looked up (on the Internet). He read it. Figured out it was Pennsylvania. Then he came over (to the map on the desk). It was like a little light bulb went off in his head,” Albricht said.
The young man worked on the Reading Road Trip Challenge at the library, although many of the kids are taking the Reading Road Trip Challenge home with them and are working on it at their own pace, she said.
Some youngsters do not have a computer at home and Internet access, so that’s where the public library becomes especially important, Albricht and Hurlburt said.
“The library is a great place for all ages,” Albricht said.
“We like having the kids come in. They bring the library to life,” Hurlburt said.
“That’s something else we’ve learned at workshops: the importance of play and the importance of play associated with reading and learning,” Albricht said.
“That’s why we try to have cool toys that they can interact with. The costumes. They love the costumes and the hats. And the little reading nook,” she said.
A section of space under the window facing the street turned out to be the perfect space for a reading nook for younger kids. A coat of bright paint and some pillows and stuffed animals make it a wonderful spot for children to curl up with a book.
“We have to give the village employees credit too. They have been helping out a lot with little projects (like the reading nook),” Hurlburt said.
The Colfax Public Library’s Reading Road Trip Challenge will continue through the end of February.