Tea party brings to life magical world in books

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Haven Egg, 5, of Ferdinand, plays croquet during the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com 

HUNTINGBURG — About 30 elementary-aged and younger kids went down the rabbit hole Saturday for an unbirthday party at the Huntingburg Public Library.

Librarians hosted the library’s annual tea party with an Alice in Wonderland theme, complete with Queen of Hearts croquet played with flamingo mallets. The library has hosted the tea party-- every year for over a decade — first it was the Princess Tea Party, then the Royal Tea Party — and it’s become one of the library’s most popular programs.

The annual party is an expanded storytime that encourages attendees to dress up in their favorite costumes, hear a story, do crafts and play games. This year, kids dressed as Disney princesses, Chewbacca from Star Wars and, of course, Alice herself came to listen to the Step Into Reading version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” before decorating their own Mad Hatter hats, eating brownies and playing croquet.

Joseph Wilmes of Huntingburg, 5, said the croquet was his favorite activity, though he also enjoyed dressing up as Alice for the event. His mom, Beth, said he likes dressing up in costumes of all sorts.

“I like the pretending to be something else,” he said.

Amelia Trusty, 3, of Huntingburg, twirls in her princess dress during the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday. 

Joseph is home-schooled, so Saturday’s theme also served an impetus for Beth to read the chapter book version of “Alice in Wonderland” to him.

Although Saturday morning’s events looked more like a party than a library activity, every activity worked on building early learning skills for the young kids in attendance. Researchers have identified several literacy milestones children reach in their first years of life, and Reading Rockets, a national multimedia literacy initiative, broke them down into age groups.

From birth to age 3, for example, children learn to mimic the tones and rhythms adults use when speaking; recognize their favorite books by their covers and pretend to read them; scribble with a purpose (a precursor to writing and drawing); listen to stories; and pay attention to certain letters, such as those in their names.

Children's Librarian Shannon Werne, right, introduces her daughter Ranae Werne, 11, both of Fulda, to the participants of the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday.

The next age group Reading Rockets broke down — age 3 to 4 — shows children enjoying listening to and talking about stories, attempting to read and write and making some letter-sound matches, to name a few. All of these are skills covered at library storytimes, and they are skills parents can work on at home to boost children’s literacy.

If the goal of the party is to get kids interested in reading, it seemed to work. Several kids sat down to read with their parents or checked out books to take home after the festivities died down.

Next year, the library plans to host another themed tea party, Director Angie Haake said. She expects it to be just as crowded as this year.

“Who doesn’t want to dress up and be a prince or princess for a day?” she said. “I think that’s the draw.”

Children's Librarian Shannon Werne of Fulda reads Alice in Wonderland to the participants of the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday. 
Gilda Ciraulo, right, reads a book to her granddaughter, Lucila Ciraulo, 4, both of Huntingburg, during the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday.
Olive Stenftenagel, 4, of Huntingburg, sits with her tiara on at the Mad Hatter's tea party activity during the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday. 



Wyatt Haake, 13, of Mariah Hill, portrays the Mad Hatter while helping set up during the tea party at the Huntingburg Public Library on Saturday. 



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