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Making reading fun

| Thursday, April 7, 2005

This spring, the Scottdale Public Library, is again presenting the "Books Come Alive" children's series.

More than 24 local children attended the first of the plays, "The Adventure's of Maisy."

"Books Come Alive" is a program of live adaptations of popular children's books. The books are acted and performed by the youth and teen members of the theater troupe "Stage Right," located in Greensburg.

Started in 1998 by the brother and sister team of Anthony Marino and Christine Rizk, "Stage Right" is a school for performing arts. It focuses on bringing youth to the theater, hoping to increase their interest in the arts.

The "Books Come Alive" series not only introduces theater to the young audience, but the unique interpretations of literature also encourage children to read.

"Arts and literacy," Rizk said, "what could be better?"

Rizk and Marino were approached several years ago by Caesar Muccari, head of the Hempfield Library in Greensburg, with the idea of combining students' acting talents and musical abilities with reading.

"Books Come Alive" was the product of their combined efforts. The program has been a tremendous success, library officials said. Attendance and interest in the series has grown yearly.

"They really bring in the crowds," said Patti Miller, head librarian at the Scottdale library. "They take a book and bring it to life."

Books chosen for the program are always those that are part of a series by the same author. The intent is that the children will enjoy the live production, want to read that particular book, and then possibly become interested in all the books in that series or by that particular author. Area librarians are asked for recommendations prior to the season.

"The district then buys the participating libraries copies of the books," Miller said.

This is the second year the Scottdale library has sponsored the series.

Rhonda Allison, assistant librarian, said last year the program attracted more than 80 children and parents.

Many of the performers have been with the company for years. Others are new. Each play is double cast. Senior students participate in almost all productions. The newer cast members rotate roles.

"These are brilliant kids," Rizk said. "They only practice three or four days before each production."

Rachael Braun, 16, of Export, plays a lead role. She enjoys the excitement of the performances. "I really like performing and now I get to choreograph, too.

Jonathon Fox, of Scottdale, brought his two children, Braden, and Lydia, to the recent show. He said the family plans on attending the next installment.

"It's a good thing for my children," Fox said.

There are presently 15 libraries in Westmoreland, Fayette and Allegheny counties that participate in the "Books Come Alive" program.

"This is such a great program," said Alice Duncan, of Connellsville, who brought her granddaughter, Sara, to the play. "She just loves to watch these kids, then she wants me to get her the book."

Upcoming "Books Come Alive" plays that will be performed include:

= "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," by Jon Scieszka, which will be presented at 6:30 p.m. April 28, at the Scottdale library, and at 1:30 April 16 at neighboring Mt. Pleasant Library

= "Play Ball Amelia Bedelia," by Peggy Parish, being performed at 6:30 p.m. May 26, at the Scottdale library, and at 1:30 p.m. June 4 at Mt. Pleasant Library. For questions or information, call the Scottdale library at 724-887-6140.

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