Karen Creech knows how to get children to read. Just teach them some sea chanteys, give them quill pens and show them how to make butter.
All these activities are part of "An American Folk Festival," a summer series of programs at Junior Editions, a children's book store at Columbia Mall. Ms. Creech, the store's program manager, says the object of including activities such as chantey-singing and butter-making is to pique the interest of youngsters so they'll read more about the times they reflect.
Last year's summer program, the geography-oriented "Where in the World Is Camp Junior Editions?", was recently given the prestigious Lucile Micheels Pannell Award, presented each year by the Women's National Book Association to a store creating a program that brings children and books together.
The first two programs this year were titled "American Tall Tales" and "Old-Fashioned Lifetimes." And in the next program, "A Sailor's Life" (July 7 from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.), representatives of the Maryland Historical Society are to show a hand-painted sea chest, along with items a sailor would have taken on a typical voyage. That's where the chantey-singing comes in.
"We use an activity as a jumping-off point, in the hope that if we get their attention the children might be interested in further reading," Ms. Creech says. "Each program is book-oriented, in that we present books and stories and there's always a bibliography available."
The programs, which will run through Aug. 1, are designed for children ages 6 to 12 and last about an hour. "Our kids are very motivated and we move at a very fast pace," Ms. Creech said. "But we've found they've turned out to be of interest to parents and grandparents as well. We've had to structure two of the programs ['Old-Fashioned Lifetimes' and Aug. 1's 'Appalachian Melodies'] to include the rest of the family as well."
The store relies heavily on help from outside. "That's something we've been very surprised and pleased with -- the aid from the community," Ms. Creech said. "Last year, for instance, a flower shop in the mall donated flowers to illustrate Monet's garden. This year, we've gotten a lot of help from museums in Baltimore -- the 1840 House, the B&O; Museum and so on."
The schedule for the rest of the summer includes:
* "Meet Me at the General Store" (July 14, 1 p.m.): A small-town general store is re-created, with children learning about quilting, as well as how to barter and sample goods.
* "Railroad Days" (July 21 at 1 p.m.) Representatives of the B&O; Railroad Museum in Baltimore will discuss railroad folk tales and songs.
* "Westward Bound" (July 28 at 1 p.m.): How families traveled west after the Homestead Act of 1862 will be discussed, including how children of the time lived and played. Among the planned activities is a demonstration of butter-making.
* "Appalachian Melodies" (Aug. 1 at 2 p.m.) This program is designed for the family. The group Thunder Hill is to perform tunes on fiddle, banjo and guitar, and children will get to play homemade instruments.
The programs are free, but because they are limited to about 25 children they fill up quickly, Ms. Creech said. Registration by phone is suggested; call (410) 730-2665.