Children in Central Ohio have almost daily opportunities to experience books and reading readiness in fun and exciting ways through story hours at our wonderful public library branches.
So what would draw them all the way to Findlay?
The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books.
The museum, located on the campus of the University of Findlay about 100 miles north of Columbus, is the world’s largest museum devoted to literature and the art from children’s books.
During the school year, the museum welcomes families for “Funday Sundays” — themed events with a literary focus.
The events vary each month but typically involve some combination of listening to stories, craft stations, snacks, puppets, music and special guests.
The day we attended was devoted to “Crazy Creatures,” a theme proposed by visiting guests and well-known illustrators Christopher and Jeanette Canyon. The Columbus artists suggested the theme because they know kids often grow frustrated trying to draw animals that look like the real thing, said the museum’s education coordinator Terry Olthouse.
The theme came to life at many of the stations set up around the museum. Kids created silly animals with puzzle pieces representing different animal parts. My 5 year old was quite pleased with his creature that included an alligator head, a tiger arm, gorilla chest and elephant legs. At the craft table, he used pipe cleaners and pom-poms to invent a new creature.
There were no pictures or examples for kids to look at that — they were free to create whatever they wanted to. He especially liked the modeling clay station where he was asked to combine the traits of multiple animals into a new critter. He made a “chenguin,” a yellow, black and white animal that was part penguin, part cheetah.
The highlight of the day was the Canyons’ presentation, which included jokes, drawing tips, singing and an explanation of how Jeanette Canyon uses polymer clay to create book illustrations.
Before our visit, Olthouse had warned me that families “come early and stay late.” She was right. We arrived minutes after the 1:30 p.m. start time and the museum was filled with kids roaming happily from one activity to the next. When the 3:30 p.m. end time arrived, the Canyons were still entertaining the crowd with their fabulous talk.
We capped off our adventure with a stop at Dietsch Brothers, a nearbycandy and ice cream shop. The Findlay institution, known for its chocolate pretzels, will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. It was a sweet ending to a wonderful day.