Three-year-old Joshua stood on a red step-stool, and in a singsong voice, began to recite “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” As he sang out the last rhyme, he was rewarded with the applause of children and their families and a slice of pizza from Hampden’s Pizza Gourmet, a business that has donated to the “Pizza and Poetry” event at the town’s Edythe Dyer Community Library for the past 20 years.
Joshua’s peers sat at tables covered with brown paper made festive with imaginative crayon drawings the children had created while waiting. But the crayons were dropped when the poetry began, and the children sat listening, some nervously waiting for their turns to stand on the stool next to the librarian.
That was last April vacation.
This year, Joshua again practices to perform at the annual event on Friday, April 22, along with his two older brothers, Jacob, 7, and Nicholas, 10, who most likely will read poems from Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky books.
“It’s good for them to stand up in front of people like that,” said their mother, Amy Lorenzo of Hampden. “I know I had trouble with that when I was younger.”
“We’ve had children that have hardly opened their mouth get up and read a poem,” said Donna Beck, head of children’s services at the library.
The Tudor-style building, nestled in the quiet woodlands of Hampden, was formerly the home of Edythe L. Dyer. It became the community library in 1983, and now the librarians generate a full schedule of activities for children and their families.
Lorenzo, a stay-at-home mom, said the library’s “Toddler Time,” “Story Time” and summer puppet shows and crafts workshops are social opportunities for her and her sons.
She first attended “Pizza and Poetry” when her oldest son, Nicholas, was just 2 years old, and she’s attended it every year since.
“Previously, I was a teacher, so I know the value of having children attend kind of structured events at a young age,” said Lorenzo. “And anything to do with books, we’re all about. We’re constantly checking out books there.”
“Pizza and Poetry” is a small event, usually 12 to 20 readers and families, but whether children’s events are intimate or festival-sized, they help cohere a Maine community, introducing neighbors and exposing youths to new creative activities outside the classrooms. April school vacation week — April 18-22 — is a popular time for businesses and organizations to schedule children’s events, such as crafts workshops, educational games and outdoor adventures. Call your local libraries, arts centers, museums and recreation facilities to discover the many workshops, presentations and activities organized for this spring break.
A selection of events for children during April school vacation:
1. School Vacation Art Camp for Kids: Assemblage and Dioramas, 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Waterfall Arts in Belfast. Painted and art teacher Lesia Sochor, inspired by famous assemblage artist Joseph Cornell, will teach about making art through assembling found objects. Cost is $90. The camp is designed for ages 8-12. Class size is limited. Visit www.waterfallarts.org or call 338-2222.
2. Free April vacation activities for school-aged children Monday-Friday at the Ellsworth Public Library. Recycled crafts workshop, 2-3 p.m. Monday, April 18; mosaics workshop, 2-3 p.m. Tuesday, April 19; human board game, 2-3 p.m. Wednesday, April 20; artist trading cards workshop, 2-3 p.m. Thursday, April 21; and creating comics and graphic novels workshop, 2-3 p.m. Friday, April 22. Call 667-6363. The programs do not require registration.
3. SpringQuest, a lab school for K-5 children with College of the Atlantic students preparing for professional teacher certification, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, April 18-22, on the COA campus in Bar Harbor. Cost is $120. Call 801-5685.
4. River Tree Arts Circus Smirkus Camp for children in kindergarten through second grade, 9 a.m.-noon, and for children in grades three and up, 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Kennebunk Town Hall Auditorium. Children spend the week with a circus master, Rich Davis, and his assistants learning noncompetitive physical activities related to the circus. Cost is $250. Call 967-9120 to register. Space is limited.
5. April vacation activities at Bangor Public Library. Stringed Instrument Petting Zoo, 11 a.m.-noon Tuesday, April 19; Teen Reader’s Theatre, 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19; Teen Anime Club, 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 20; Puppet Show, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21; and Young Artists’ Reception, 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23. Call 947-8336.
6. Art in the Heart of Downtown brings fiber artist Tree Heckler, the “Monster Bag Lady,” to Maine Discovery Museum as an artist in residence Wednesday-Saturday, April 20-23, and a family art workshop with Heckler 2-3 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Maine Discovery Museum. Recommended 6 years old and up. Free admission. To sign up, call 262-7200. Limited to 15 children for the workshop, but anyone can visit the artist during open hours Wednesday-Saturday. Call 262-7200.
7. April vacation activities at Edythe Dyer Community Library in Hampden. Teddy Bear Picnic for preschoolers and older siblings, bring a snack or lunch, a blanket and teddy bear, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 19; paper-crafting workshop for grades four, five and six, bring scissors and a ruler, sign up at the library, 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 20; and Pizza and Poetry for all ages, bring a poem to read, sign up at the library, 11 a.m. Friday, April 22, at the Edythe Dyer Community Library. Call 862-3550.
8. Maine Audubon day camp for grades one-five 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth. Campers may sign up for individual days or attend the entire week. Cost is $55 per day and $250 for the week. Each day is themed for different nature education and activities. Call 781-2330 to register.
9. April vacation family programs, 10 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden. Each program is two hours. “Frogs and Salamanders,” Monday; “Nature’s Alphabet,” Tuesday; “Make an Insect Home,” Wednesday; “Be a Garbologist,” Thursday; and “Earth Day Celebration,” Friday. Cost is $8 for member family and $10 for a nonmember family. Call 989-2591 to register.
10. School Vacation Kite-Building Workshop, two workshops held each day at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Owls Head Transportation Museum. Each day is devoted to a different kite: Monday, sled kite, Tuesday, diamond kite, Wednesday, butterfly kite, Thursday, delta kite, and Friday, snake kite. Registration is suggested because space is limited, but participants may register the day of the event. Free. Call 594-4418.
11. Liberty Days School Vacation, elementary students enjoy arts and crafts, games, projects and outdoor activities, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, April 18-22, at Penobscot Marine Museum, 40 East Main St. in Searsport. Call Betty Schopmeyer at 548-2529.
12. Maine Environmental Research Institute Kids Program “Ocean Food Webs — Plankton and Whales,” 10 a.m.-noon Tuesday, April 19, and MERI Kids Program, “Earth Day Everyday!” 10 a.m.-noon Thursday, April 21, at MERI Center, 55 Main St. in Blue Hill. Cost is $15 for each program. The programs are suitable for children ages 6-12. Call 374-2135.
13. 2011 Waponahki Student Art Show, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 21-23, at Abbe Museum’s Community Gallery, 26 Mount Desert St. in Bar Harbor. Native American students from early childhood education through high school display a variety of their art, in which they incorporate traditional beliefs and values with the modern, multi-cultural world around them. Call 288-3519. Exhibit runs through September.