Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot
By Matt Morrison

February 17, 2015

The young children were fidgety. Some explored bookshelves, others climbed over furniture and one tugged on a mother’s forearm in the youth wing of the library.

Some knew each other as elementary school classmates, while others exhibited the age-appropriate shyness that often precedes meeting new friends. All were anticipating the first meeting of the new Kids Art & Book Club at the Laguna Beach Public Library.

“I like being able to bring her here to places where she has a better chance of meeting all different kinds of kids,” said Katie Rootlieb, hand in hand with her 7-year-old daughter, Madeleine.

As part of the club, children will pick a book from a themed list and then meet at the library to create artwork based on that month’s theme.

“We’re just hoping, I guess, to spark more of an interest in reading and enjoy the art projects,” Nicole Hennesy said as she stood with daughter Kate. “She’s a big reader. She wanted to be in a book club like her grandmother.”

The two first-graders at Top of the World Elementary would soon leave their mothers behind to join the dozen or so other students for an art workshop in the library’s small activities room.

The club is a pilot program developed with the Laguna Outreach Community Arts, a nonprofit coalition of arts advocates, to inspire young learners. Limited to 18 students from first through third grade, the workshop operates on a small grant provided by the city.

“I hope the children come away with an appreciation of children’s books,” said LOCA Director Sherry Bullard before leading the first class. “Not only how much illustrations enhance their reading but how important artists are to illustrate the books.”

Bullard busily prepared the art workshop room with assisting LOCA artists Reem Khalil and Natasha Weir. Watercolors and paintbrushes were laid out on three long tables protected by sheets of butcher paper. Cardboard display panels showing various illustration styles were set up around the room.

The students filed in and set out creating a collective artwork based on the theme “trees.”

“It’s just what the curriculum is up at the schools,” explained Pamela Chesney-Algar, the Laguna Beach youth services librarian. “They’re studying trees and then they’ll be studying spring and then weather. The last program will be ocean.”

Chesney-Algar said the goal is to foster a relationship between children and the library.

“We want them to be lifelong learners, beyond college, beyond whatever school they go to, so that they feel welcome here,” she said.

For more information or to register, call (949) 497-1733.

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