this week at the FPL

It was Pay Day at the Front Porch Library and there was a fury of reading to get in the last couple of books for the month. It was, in fact going on all over the house and in the yard, along with a major Duplo-Block build on the lawn and an intense round of a board game with a name like (maybe exactly like) Worst Case Scenario in which you had to pick the correct way to tell Bubonic Plague was setting in, deter a shark, or escape a tornado when no shelter was available.

Keith and I were a team (one volunteer – one kid). The other team was Nick and TJ. As TJ read words like “meningitis” I realized this game was a tougher reading challenge than the ones posed by any of our books.

It was close, but Keith and I thought our way around what to do when you swallow poisonous mushrooms or how to handle a sudden fainting spell–so, we won! The game wasn’t one I purchased, not even at my usual exclusive store, Goodwill. No, I found the game lifting the lid of a neighbor’s trash can and a game that involved sharks, floods. famine and radiation seemed too good to pass up.

The gathering closed with visits to the Pay Office (AKA the kitchen). Each kid got a bank book so we could record their pay. At pay-out I made the readers an offer Bank of America would never consider. “If you leave a quarter in your account I will match it–that’s right! You will have a 50 cent balance before you read book one!” I think that four kids took me up on it–and we’re on our way to teaching the concept of saving and compound interest!

We had 16 kids today and a dozen volunteers–which is about the necessary ratio. Another good day at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the FPL

We are at high tide numbers at the Front Porch Library again. Luckily we have a great cadre of volunteers and today we were joined by Judy Leclere, a seasoned literacy coach. Wow, did we get lucky.

Mr. John and Judy also began coaching some GED seekers so there was a lot of hard thinking going on.

Easy thinking too. Our volunteer Arriana invited another volunteer, Hal, to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with a proposal written on tag board. We were all happy when he accepted.

Reading continued to go on in the reading room, Miss Heather getting a lot out of the readers by asking them questions that required thought–dare I say deductive reasoning.

In the kitchen we made a huge pot of vegetarian chili–yes, kids with knives, chopping. We got a particularly potent onion that sent many kids from the room in tears, but after wiping the tears away with their sleeves they came back. Cumin was declared a really good spice by general consensus.

Banners were worked on at the big table. It was a lively day at the FPL. I’ll wait until tomorrow to mop the floor in the kitchen. Chili ingredients seem to be more-than-a-little affected by gravity.

this week at the FPL

With a dozen kids, it was wild and crazy at the Front Porch Library today, but quietly, in the reading room, Miss Heather was finding the “just right” books for each kid and getting them to read, sounding out words like”fetch,” which isn’t that easy if you think back to your own sounding-it-out days.

Outside, with the help of our volunteer Arianna, I was drawing on some standard hippie knowledge and teaching the kids to make “God’s Eyes” using Laurel Cherry saplings and some variegated yarn donated to us by I-don’t-remember-who. Being left handed I needed Arianna to translate the motions for the right handed craftsmen, which was every kid at the table.

In addition to our dozen kids and a great array of volunteers. The basketball action in the street was hot and heavy–both hoops in continuous action.

There was a request that I bring our new dog. Rudy out. The kids took turns walking him. He found this very exciting.

The cake was an unusual casualty. When I shook it out of the pan it fell out in pieces. Olivia doctored it with a massive covering of icing and sprinkles. With the rough terrain of sprinkles who could tell the cake had landed in a lot of pieces?

Another lively day at the FPL. The gang was definitely all there.

this week at the FPL


Kary here, reporting for Adrian who had to be away this week leading a writing workshop for adults.  We missed her, but managed to have an action-packed, amazing day anyway.

Donna brought starter dough and baking supplies.  With an apron and heapin’ helping of verve, she brought three groups of kids through the kitchen to make homemade bread.  The youngest ones’ eyes got wide when they heard that the yeast was alive and that sugar and water would “wake it up.”  Robin kept doughy hands from touching every surface in the house.  She also helped pack up the dough and sent everyone home with hand-written instructions for turning their kneaded ziploc bags of goo into scrumptious loaves. Six loaves of bread were baked and sampled — some just plain and hot out of the oven and some with spoonfuls of strawberry jam.  Not surprisingly, all were proclaimed “The Best Ever.”

John, Isaac and I did plenty of one-on-one reading as our Book Bank patrons made their next deposits of time spent reading.  Meg and Hal watched the street and shot some hoops.  Several more woven potholders were finished by four of the kids who demonstrated the triumph of perseverance over stretchy loops of fabric.

We sent three young neighbors home with armloads of giveaway books.  Later I saw Eliana with a paperback open in one hand while the other held the handlebars of her bicycle.  She was making small circles on the street to stay close to group at the basketball hoop.  Every time she stopped, she would look down and read another page.  “It has jokes in it!” she said as she showed me her prize.  Another fine day at the library, indeed.

And here’s the postscript, but it is more like a roar:   Many and ultra thanks to Donna, Robin, Meg, Hal, John, and Isaac !!!!!


this week at the FPL

bookbank1Today at the Front Porch Library, wow, were we busy–kids and kids and kids. And we started a new project called The Book Bank. I think I’ll explain the thinking behind it first. We try to nurture many things at the library. The foundation is built on reading skills, but our kids (probably all kids) are terrible at waiting for a reward, planning ahead and seeing money as something that isn’t meant to be spent instantly.

So, the Book Bank. I made a big chart covering the next two months of Sundays. The kids are being encouraged to read two books apiece each week to a volunteer–Miss Heather is finding the “just right” reading level for each kid and each reader has a volunteer of their own to read to. For each book read they put a stamp on their square on my chart (we have a nice spider web, butterfly, and dinosaur stamp selection).

At the end of the month the weekly square says PAY DAY, SWEET! And we pay the kids a quarter for each book read–at two a week in a five week month that adds up to a whopping $2.50. But if they really want to take high finance up a notch they can leave money in the bank and EARN INTEREST–what a concept!

I know that pay for reading may raise your eyebrows, but our kids need a little real-world training–and today they read at a rate they haven’t for months. Mr. John rewarded them with a scratch cake and they shot hoops in the street. Everyone had a great time. I’ll let you know how our grand experiment goes after the shine of week one wears off, but so far so good.

this week at the FPL


Today was the great cookie bake-off at the Front Porch Library. Mr. John made a huuuuge batch of gingerbread dough. I made and equally huuuuge
batch of sugar cookies (yes, I counted the number of uuuuus and they are equal), and a moderate amount of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Fortunately, it was warm enough to set up the decorating table outside on the lawn. Indoor decorating can be catastrophic when working on a rug that is old enough to collect Social Security. I made bowls of icing and bought loads of those way-too-expensive shaky bottles of sprinkles, and the icing and decorating began. There was some screaming when the yellow jackets showed up, but we got used to them walking around harmlessly on the icing.

We had ten kids (or eleven?) The sign-in sheet didn’t rank really high on our to-do list. Miss Robin manned the kitchen–she said she felt like Lucy in the conveyor belt episode. She ended up putting some of the leftover dough in the fridge, wrapped in saran wrap. She saw great commercial possibilities in the rolls of gingerbread dough. “They could be marketed as reindeer poop.”

We fitted kids with bike helmets and gave away books and toys. Each kid got a book and something off the gift blanket. I especially liked Klark choosing a giraffe for his sister, guarding it against all comers.

There was biking on the street with everyone borrowing Vivienne’s two-wheeler, each time with her warning, “It’s a killer!” Which it kind of is. The brakes are stiff and it likes to fall over.

We sent the kids home with bags of iced cookies to share and books and small gifts. Fortunately we had great volunteer help: Ernest, Heather, Hanna, Jorge, Penny, Michael, Robin, Isaac…golly, who did I forget?

We will be closed next week so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supports this very local effort at literacy literacy and community. We exist thanks to generous donations of time and small monetary donations.

I promise, this will be rare (not a public radio/television pledge drive–they pay much bigger bills than we do), but if you would like to make a donation to the Front Porch Library, here is the link: Make a donation to The Front Porch Library

this week at the FPL


The Front Porch Library had two activities lined up. The first was carefully planned; a great bird project (stringing cereal and popcorn, making seeded pinecones). The second involved a big cardboard box picked up by the side of the road. There is now a small Magnolia tree decked with bird treats on the library lawn, but the cardboard box (of the large appliance variety) was definitely the winner in the what-we-want-to-do category.

Olivia, Klark and Vivienne added a fabric door and loads of artwork leaving the popcorn stringing to adults too old to feel the thrill of an appliance box.

Big thanks to Donna, planner of the gathering and to John, Robin, Penny and Hunter for covering the afternoon for me while I played at the Democratic Party party. I did bake the weekly cake (I am not a total slouch). It was devil’s food. John took care of the icing.

this week at the FPL

This week at the Front Porch Library Miss Heather took over for me so I am going to paste her report here. As you will see, we are booming again–17 kids–woohoo!

we had lots of kids reading (Shameesia, twins Tamia and Tamiya, Delmus, De Vaun, and more); there were kids playing basketball and riding bikes and scooters (Arianna, chloe, and more) (narrowly missing each other); TJ asked for paints, so we got them out and there was painting galore; Olivia and Clark brought their cousins (twins) who were in town visiting. at the beginning, i asked kids to share something they were thankful for and we had siblings and a mother and a dog mentioned and Corinne said “everybody in the whole world.”

the cake was a big hit (decorated by Corinne and Chloe and maybe TJ) and i had to cut narrow slices in order to make it stretch – at this rate, we’ll need to make 2 cakes in the future

also the healthy snacks were much appreciated and disappeared into smiling faces

17 kids, but luckily we had good weather so most were outside, and there were lots of volunteers on hand: Hunter and his mom, Arianna’s dad Kip, Chris (grandma/mom), new high school volunteer Arianna – who jumped in without reservation on her first day, Meg, John, Jen, and me – and Kary showed up to help with photos and clean up

here’s the only photo i managed to grab – i was so busy reading with kids, that i didn’t get to take more

it’s like a where’s waldo – mom and grandma are playing checkers, 4 kids in foreground, 3 further back to the left and 2 or more in the distance playing in the street.

this week at the FPL


Today was the first day of Project Live Oak at the Front Porch Library–and also a boom day for kids, thank goodness–I think I counted 11 but they were moving pretty darned fast–I know we have a sign in sheet, but I haven’t slowed down long enough to look at it–moving fast is a universal state at the library.

But back to our tree project. The neighborhood has been losing its grandfather oaks at an alarming rate over the last few months. Many are dropping limbs and proving to be hollow and rotten at the heart and no one is planting replacement oaks. Crepe myrtles, as pretty as they are, are no stand-in for an oak–and that’s where the FPL comes in.

First, we visited the huge oak in the library’s back yard. It goes by the name Bob Star, named by library kids of years past. First we circled it touching finger tip to finger tip–then we measured it with a string because our arms were not of uniform length. After doing some very shaky math on the chalk board we determined that Bob Star is 17.5 feet in diameter.

We will never see our Live Oak project produce a tree of that magnitude, but the planter of Bob Star never saw its full magnificence either. And so we set out with a bowl and a colander to collect acorns. We sighted down the road, picking out the live oaks–Olivia was especially good at picking them out. Moving from tree to tree, the kids scrabbled along the edge of the road gathering seeds.

When we got back we put them in a big bowl which we flooded. The floaters were scooped off the top–and that is just step one in a very long process, but I feel really pleased that we are taking on this project. As Vivienne said, “Without trees you can’t breathe!”



this week at the FPL


It was a quiet day at the Front Porch Library, the rain bucketing down. Vivienne came first. She and I started the giant under-the-sea floor puzzle. For some reason she fixated on measuring the length of the edges as we assembled them, carefully placing the ruler, then counting the numbers that marked off each inch out loud.

Klark and Olivia barreled in for a grand total of three kids, but that was okay. We had a huge neighborhood block party last night so everyone was tired from eating chili, introducing themselves to neighbors and taking part in the bike parade that featured a very long dragon designed by our neighbor on the corner, Meg Fulford. We lugged that dragon (a three carrier job at least) on a long loop through Seminole Manor Neighborhood, the bikes circling around us. See a glorious photo of the dragon up above.

Miss Heather arrived at the library. We broke out the games. Miss Kary checked up on us, played with us for a while then decided we had things covered–the block party was on her lawn so she had definitely done her duty in the neighborliness department.

Then we played Twister. Miss Heather and I are more limber than you might expect, although we both have a little difficulty distinguishing left and right.

Vivienne and Olivia became teachers. I got sent to detention for kicking someone (although Vivienne assured me that I didn’t do it on purpose).

As time was running out, Klark assembled a puzzle in record time.

We ate cupcakes left over from the block party. Yup, we had a good old time.

this week at the FPL


Today was a work day at the Front Porch Library–although it closely resembled a typical non-work day. We were feverishly getting ready for our neighborhood block party next Saturday. That meant chili–and that meant kids with knives (they are better at chopping than you might think). Olivia even took on the stubborn vegetables like carrots. I know, carrots are not usually found in chili. Did I mention that chili is not a real specialty of mine?

Posters were made at the big white table–as soon as the rain threat passes we’ll be stapling our somewhat cryptic invitations to the block party to poles. Klark did one with a beautiful smiling flower. Vivienne put our dog stamps to good use. Miss Kary, in an act of adult forethought, cut a stencil for a sign that actually contained the details and can be reproduced with spray paint.

Mr. John browned all the meat. Three pots of what we like to think of as chili are cooling on the stove, waiting to go into the fridge.

There was also a sumptuous meal of plastic foods served on the red rug,and the Tinker Toys were assembled into their usual windmill shapes.

Our volunteer Cole treated us to a view of his chin–it is something like shave-your-beard-off month. He looked good. Hunter, as always, filled in all over the place, eating plastic food with Vivienne, peeling tomatoes and reminding everyone that it was about time to eat cake.

Lexi, who is about to turn two joined us with her dad, Yohannes. A new library kid!

We (hopefully) are on target for a great block party. Miss Meg is making a dragon float for the bike parade. Miss Tracy ordered helmets to give away to helmet-less riders. Onward! Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

DSC01207 DSC01215 DSC01217 DSC01218

this week at the FPL


It was Halloween party day at the Front Porch Library. I set up multiple, highly considered stations all over the yard. Many, many activities happened although not quite the ones I’d planned.

The dress-up station set off the girls, Olivia, Arriana and Vivienne, in a torrent of dramatic improv theater, aided by Hanna, one of the kindest volunteers ever.

The boys fixated on major Lego construction, rendering access to the kitchen nearly impossible for anyone not skilled at the long jump. Kweli, Klark and volunteers Michael and Isaac were building up a storm when the twins–always the perfect storm–blew in. We were so glad to see them–we had about given up on their be-back promises.

Kweli went home and got his Batman costume. Man, do they build muscles into these modern costumes. We kept coming across him crouched to spring in superhero readiness all over the house and yard.

We bought two pumpkins, which was about our financial limit, but they were big and we got three faces on each which Kip and Sally carved. Gut removal was done mostly by kids–the yuck factor was irresistible. Our candles were measly but we got a faint glow out of them.

We had a guess-how-many jar of candy corn. Guesses ranged from 40-2,000. The actual number was 263. The nearest guess was Harper’s at 200.

Today’s specialty of the house was worm cake (chocolate with protruding gummy worms).

Miss Kary and Miss Heather took care of photography and general chaos management.

Long before library time CJ1 came over to say he was moving to Jacksonville by the end of the week–but if that didn’t work out he’d see us next Sunday. I’m going to buy some super glue and stick our kids’ shoes to the library floor. It’s the only way to prevent their random departures.

A fine day at the FPL.


DSC01141 DSC01144 DSC01174 DSC01177 DSC01179

this week at the FPL


Today at the Front Porch Library we had the Return of Jennifer–one of our longest serving and most incredible volunteers. Back from Chicago for a wedding, we were her number one must-visit.

She brought her husband Ed and their baby Kenji–while he was busy getting himself ready for his first appearance in the world the kids of the FPL made him a beautiful quilt. Embroidered in the center it said “There once was a boy named Kenji…” Now he is walking like a man who just climbed off a horse; the boy has a wide stance. He enjoyed the heaped up corner of building toys almost as much as he enjoyed the gravel in the driveway.

Vivienne was the baker’s assistant today. “Aren’t you glad you have me to lick the spoon?” Vivienne and Mr. John came in for a second round, making hot pink strawberry icing–enough to drown more than one cake, so we drowned our one-and-only cake extra well.

It was my father’s birthday today, and since he is the patron saint of the library and its former resident I told his story as the program. I sure do miss him, but I feel close to him every time I come into the house. If I’m alone I still say, hi Dad.

We did some Halloween projects and dug under the hedge. As long as Kweli is coming to the library the shovel will, at some point, come out. He and Isaac disturbed a few grubs, but nothing of the gold or silver persuasion. Kweli remains ever hopeful. A fine day at the FPL.


DSC01067 DSC01072




this week at the FPL


Today at the FPL we had two kids–and we had a grand time. Vivienne had a volunteer all to herself. Cole played every part that was not Queen Asia (that role was Vivienne’s). At the end of library he had the high honor of carrying her home in what she described as a “princess carry.” while she played dead.

Kweli had his own volunteer too. Isaac ended up helping Kweli dig–Kweli has a genuine fascination with what can be found under the dirt.

You may be thinking, what, no program? It was color day at the library and Kweli and I painted a pretty decent color wheel. We also had a table-sized mural going on which we each drew our favorite things and then figured out how to spell them and stenciled the letters on . Vivienne, at 5 sounded out Princess very well.

Meanwhile, Miss Heather and CJ 1 tested out Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man drawing by having CJ 1 lie down in the street while Miss Heather drew the circle. By golly Da Vinci was onto something.

Mr. John took on one of the back rooms (always a losing proposition) and Hunter oversaw hooping in the street. It was a lot of fun–and there was more than enough cake to pass a big slab over the fence to the next door neighbors.

I added an image of the good old Vitruvian man, then thought better of it–my goodness, the guy is nekkid–so I edited it out. Just google it. You’ll recognize the drawing. CJ 1 was much better dressed.


this week at the FPL



It was poetry day at the Front Porch Library. We wrote some as a group. I was the note taker. Everyone else had their hands full of Legos. Here are a couple of samples of our collective wisdom in the poetry department:

I really hate this school
It makes me want to drool
I wish there was a vampire ghoul
to bite the teacher and make her cool


The thing that lives under my bed
looked up at me and said
a snake bit me on the head
and I very soon will be dead

We played bocce on the lawn and discovered that we were short a green ball. We already are pretty liberal in our interpretation of the rules, but even for us this was a real step down. Olivia and Klark won.

The end of library was a flurry of bike antics in the street. Our very local volunteer Cole is a big bike rider and he took the lead. Everyone compared things like the pressure in their tires and the action of their hand brakes. Vivienne kept yelling, “My bike’s a killer!” and she could have been right. Her hand brakes were way too stiff for her to operate. I ran alongside her as her hand brake substitute.

In the driveway, Talese and Kary assembled a wheel barrow for the community garden–one discarded in pieces by a neighbor. It still needs a wheel–so for now I think it is a wheelless barrow.

The cake was baked by the kids. Strawberry, served warm with turquoise icing, whipped cream (not whipped to the butter stage this week) and fresh strawberries. Another good day at the FPL!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers