Library’s KinderCard program roars to life for the year

Kids crown ‘Library Lion’ as king
Mar. 02, 2013 @ 06:33 PM

Jim Zola — with a large, stuffed lion in tow — manages to inject plenty of fun into his very serious mission.
Zola, director of children’s services at High Point Neal F. Austin Public Library, wants to provide kindergarten students in local schools a good start toward literacy by giving them their very own free library card, called a KinderCard.
To that end, he spends this time each year visiting kindergarten classes in the High Point/Guilford County area.
The lion serves as a prop, but the children seem far more entranced with Zola’s reading of “Library Lion” by Michelle Knudsen, a book about a gentle lion learning how to behave at a library.
As he reads the story, Zola acts out some portions, solicits “ahhhs” and “boos,” encourages children to “rawrr” loudly like a lion and even teaches children the American Sign Language motion for “library.”
Of course, Zola’s actions are designed to reinforce what he tells the children. He explains where the library is — beside Krispy Kreme, a location each child seems to know — that more than just books are available there and the idea of borrowing.
He offers incentives (pencils, bookmarks, stickers, all with lions) for getting KinderCards and explains that a card allows for lifetime use and is exclusively for an individual child, not family members. Then he leads a thumbs-up, thumbs-down response about caring for books and how to behave in a library.
For more than 15 years, Zola has been giving his program to any kindergarten class, whether in public or private schools, that will invite him. He sends out letters early each year and continues visits through April, and he visits each school three times. First he explains the program and hands out applications, which are in both English and Spanish. He returns to collect applications, and the third visit it to hand out KinderCards.
When children visit the library, they can attach their cards to special keychains.
The return rate for applications is generally about 70 percent. The number of children who actually come to the library is pretty dismal, Zola said.
“The kids usually get pretty excited, but it takes a parent to drive them here,” he said. “I see kids who get so excited; I wish they all could actually come.”
He’s thinking of offering incentives — maybe doughnuts and coffee — for parents to bring children.
Kindergarten age is a vital time when children begin to learn to read, and Zola purposely waits until the second semester of the school year to offer his program to give kids time to adjust to going to school. In the past, the library program has included third-graders, in the hopes of including children who missed getting cards when they were in kindergarten. In the future, Zola would like to include fifth-graders because they are beginning to use books and the library for activities other than pleasure, such as book reports and research.
“I think they do get it,” Zola said of the KinderCard program. “Because they are in kindergarten and half-way through the school year, they’ve been to the school library and at least know what it is. I just wish they all could make it to the (High Point Public) library.” / 888-3601  


Kids crown ‘Library Lion’ as king

HIGH POINT — Following a visit last month from Jim Zola, director of children’s services at the public library, kindergartners at High Point Christian Academy offered the following comments:
• Brandon Bullard, age 6½: Brandon liked Mr. Zola being funny, he said. He’s been to the public library before and got a book about George Washington, in which, “somebody got the pistol and pointed it at his wife.” Brandon has never seen a lion at the library. Does he expect to? “I think I’ll see a stuffed animal,” Brandon said.
• MIcah Gable, age 6: Micah’s favorite part of the program was Zola’s reading of “Library Lion,” a story Micah had heard before and one of his favorite books. Micah goes to the public library and likes to read. His favorite book? “I forgot,” he said.
• Jessie Queen, age 5½: Jessie also enjoyed the reading of “Library Lion” best, and she also already knew the story. She, too, has been to the public library. “Sometimes I get magazines, and sometimes we get books,” she said. At home, her favorite thing is to play, but she doesn’t read that much. “But a little,” she said.
• Cooper Weisner, age 6: “I liked the part when the lion came in and when he roared,” Cooper said. He’s only been to the school library, but he wants to go to the one where Mr. Zola works, he said, and he’ll look for the lion there. / 888-3601  


Just for kids

Programs for children at the High Point public library, 901 N. Main St.:
• Storytimes, structured according to age;
• Crafts, often linked to holidays and observances;
• Special programs, including movies, Magic Tree House Club, Paws to Read at the Library with therapy dogs, Poetry Alive;
• Book clubs and contests;
• Summer reading
Children may check out books, movies, magazines for children, music and stories on CDs; use computers with games especially for children. 

More information is available online at or by calling 888-3666.