Reading program enhances understanding of German history, replicates Berlin Wall
August 18, 2009
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Thirty-three Grafenwoehr and Vilseck children gathered with family members and library staff Aug. 10 at Dick Hauter Lake on Camp Heritage to tear down a symbolic replica of the Berlin Wall as the culmination of the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Libraries summer reading program, celebrating 20 years of reunited Germany.
The children made bricks to build the wall in a series of craft sessions, using techniques such as graffiti and paper mache. Throughout the six-week reading program, 136 children read, made crafts, ate candy and learned German History.
"I think it was kind of cool how they introduced to all the younger kids how they're living in a country that they don't really know a lot about, and it was once divided and now we're celebrating it being together for twenty years," said eleven-year-old Shem McConnell of Vilseck
The program centered on the children's book "Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot," by Margot Thies Raven, in which an American pilot, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, drops candy from his plane to waiting Berlin children in need of something to look forward to.
One afternoon during the reading program, teams of firefighters from Grafenwoehr and Vilseck recreated Halvorsen's Berlin Airlift candy drops, to the delight of the children participating in the summer reading program.
"A lot of the kids loved it when the firefighters came and dropped the parachutes from the ladder on the fire truck," said McConnell.
While most summer reading programs like to keep tally of the number of books read or minutes spent reading, Kathy Henderson, programming coordinator at the Grafenwoehr Library, prefers to focus on ensuring that everyone has a good time and learns something about German history.
"We're happy if they read at all," said Henderson. "This summer was a way to educate in a fun way, without saying how horrible this time was, to teach our patron's children about a time that maybe even our patrons were too young to remember. It's a fun thing to remember all this stuff with the kids."
"It was a very interesting time," continued Henderson, "We felt like as Germany begins moving into the fall and the celebration of 60 years of democracy and 20 years of reunification, that we should bring that lesson home to our community as we grow and change."
Parents were not excluded from the fun and learning taking place at the libraries this summer.
"We're coming in at the end of the summer program and giving parents some information and resources that will help them to not let what the kids have learned over the summer end," said Christie Foster, representing the Parent to Parent organization, an organization devoted to helping parents share resources and successfully raise well-adjusted military children.
"We want to give them resources to help the parents promote reading at home, and also make learning fun, and make connections from what they're reading in books to real-life experiences and activities, like what we did here today," continued Foster.
"By tearing down the wall, putting that real-life experience with what was read to them in Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, they now have a better concept of the Berlin Wall," she said.
To see more photos of the libraries's summer reading celebration, go to www.flickr.com/photos/usaggrafenwoehr/sets or www.flickr.com/photos/graflibraries.