The Denison Public Library treated children and their families to a live magic show on Saturday in an effort to bring more young people through its doors and fuel their interest in summer reading.
Saturday’s magic show was conducted by James Munton, who performs as a British spy and magician by the name of James Wand. Munton’s tricks largely focused on reading and problem solving skills and featured a variety of props, including flaming books, a disappearing necklace and a top secret folder capable of making its contents disappear and return.
“We’ve really revamped our summer reading program,” Library Director Kimberly Bowen said. “We wanted to make it more inclusive for all ages and interests. One way we thought we could do that is to have various performers to come in and that’s on top of the weekly programs we already have.”
Bowen said while many students look forward to summer break, the lack of classes and stimulation can actually cause young people to lose some of the reading and critical thinking skills they developed throughout the school year. The library director said, like previous iterations, this year’s summer reading program aims to keep kids on track and prepare them for the return to campus and class in the fall.
“It’s our effort to combat that ‘summer slide’ and keep the kids engaged and learning,” Bowen said. “That way, when they go back to school, they don’t have to go back and learn the materials and skills they need. We don’t want them to have to backtrack. We want them to be able to move forward.”
As laughter and applause drifted throughout the the library, Bowen said this year’s summer reading program and lineup of performers was specifically designed to upend the conventional idea of what it means to visit a library. Bowen said the program’s weekly performances offer everything from Saturday’s magic show and science experiments to animal appearances and live music.
“Libraries are going through a transformation,” Bowen said. “They used to be places were you simply went to check out a book, maybe sat there and did some research and kept very quiet. We’re not that library anymore. We’re that loud, rambunctious, active, hands-on learning environment.”
Munton said he takes his magic skills to public libraries throughout North Texas during the summer months and enjoys combining education and entertainment through his live performances.
“When you’re watching magic or reading books, you’re using parts of your brain you don’t often get to use when you’re just watching a TV screen or device,” Munton said. “You’re creatively thinking, problem solving and I think it really does encourage them to explore their libraries.”
And in the interest of facilitating that exploration, Munton said James Wand is always willing to engage in a little harmless disinformation.
“During the show, I actually tell them that the library has a secret place where they keep all their magic books,” Munton said. “It’s great fun, afterwards, to see them go up and ask where the secret hiding place is for all magical books.”
The Denison Public Library’s summer reading program performances are held each Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and run through July 28. Additional information can be found by visiting the the library’s website and selecting the “reading programs” tab.