Library program enhances literacy through music, dance

By Sean Barron


It’s a bit early to tell whether Benjamin Lu will become another Mikhail Baryshnikov, but if his age combined with one of his favorite home activities is any indication, it could be in the realm of possibility.

But give him a little time — the Canfield boy is only 22 months old.

Benjamin did, however, get an opportunity to practice a few moves because he was part of the “Gotta Move” event at the Canfield branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 43 W. Main St.

The gathering for children age 2 to 5 begins at 10 a.m. the first Thursday of each month at the library.

Benjamin was one of several youngsters who participated in the 45-minute event, which is intended to enhance literacy by fusing it with music, exercise and dance movements, noted Kelly Marafiote, a children’s librarian.

“We love him to do that; it’s fun watching him dance,” said Benjamin’s mother, Yaqin Wang, a Youngstown State University economics professor who also has taken her son to storytime gatherings at the facility.

Benjamin, who also came with his father, Jinning Lu, seemed a bit shy at times during Thursday’s program but still eked out a few dance moves, something he loves to do at home to classical,

Indian, pop and other forms of music with the help of online radio, his mother said.

Marafiote began with a musical piece that encouraged the children to touch certain body parts with other parts of their bodies before reading a book titled “City Animals” by Simms Taback that uses various phrases to encourage youngsters to guess what animal is being described.

She also played a song called “Bop Until You Drop,” which uses a steady musical beat to get the children to jump, “float,” stand, spin, drop and move in slow motion on cue.

Along similar lines, Marafiote had her young charges place colored bean bags on their shoulders, heads, elbows, feet and other areas to music, then she read “The Animal Boogie” by Debbie Harter, a fantasy story about animals such as a bear, an elephant, a bird and a monkey dancing to rhythmic patterns.

The program ended on a sweet note because the youngsters were able to dance in ways that, with the aid of music and lyrics, simulated the step-by-step process of making a peaunt-butter-and-jelly sandwich.

The “Gotta Move” program got under way a few months ago, and it is hoped more youngsters will take part, Marafione said, adding that it’s also for children who might have a short attention span regarding being read to.

“We’re [also] trying to pull in kids who have a hard time sitting still during regular story time,” she explained.

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