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Oak Harbor Library art promotes early literacy
Colorful crows holding the letter “C” now fly across the entrance to the children’s section of the Oak Harbor Library, accompanied by gulls with a “G” and urchins with a “U” in an art installation meant to promote early literacy skills.
A grand opening celebration took place at the library on Friday, Dec. 2. The art was installed over eight hours on Nov. 11.
“I like the idea of learning through art,” said the artist, Celia Marie Baker. She was chosen by the library art committee from a number of artists who applied for the project. The project was funded through a grant from the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.
“We felt that Celia’s vision of this was engaging without talking down to children. It makes literacy something people can experience without shoving it down their throat,” said Oak Harbor Library children’s librarian Jane Lopez-Santillana, adding that “her drawings were very, very enticing.”
Baker, of Snohomish, painted a woodland scene and a sea and shore scene incorporating local wildlife, complete with individually cut wooden animals that she and her husband, Seth, assembled “like a jigsaw puzzle,” Baker said.
The colorful art promotes reading skills because each animal holds the first letter of its name, such as “D” for ducks.
“Kids like finding animals they know and finding the letter that goes with the animal -- kind of an ‘I spy’ interactive piece,” Baker said.
Older children can examine the scientific names of the animals listed on the art.
“It’s really an opportunity for parents to interact with kids,” said managing librarian Mary Campbell, adding that she sees children looking at the art and talking with their parents about it.
“It really augments the kinds of events we have for children at the library,” Campbell said. The library teaches skills to get children ready to read through programs like Ready Readers. The art teaches letter identification, which promotes early literacy, Campbell said.
“Having fun at the library will really help them be successful at school and later in life,” Campbell said.
“The most important part is that people will just enjoy it,” Lopez-Santillana said.
Baker has illustrated a number of children’s books and creates private home art.
“This is my first time doing a public piece. That was a really fun experience for me,” Baker said.
To research wildlife native to Whidbey Island, librarians put Baker in contact with local naturalists, including the Audubon Society and authors of wildlife books.
“It was really cool just talking to them and hearing their passion about local wildlife,” Baker said.
The ties to Whidbey Island give the art a timeless element, said Lopez-Santillana, adding that she hopes children enjoying the art now will grow up to bring their own children to see it.
“I have this feeling it’ll be one of those timeless landmarks,” Lopez-Santillana said.
“I would really love to do more work like this. It was so challenging and so fun and it was new. I was so blessed to be able to do it,” Baker said.