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Pour on the craft

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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

Diane Shetler, Programming Librarian at the Needham Free Public Library, opened the door to the craft room. Outside, a small group of young children gathered as Shetler began explaining the day's agenda.

"My favorite this time is painting with bubbles," she said.

A toddler, her mind thoroughly blown by the concept, incredulously responded: "What?!?"

"So, we have little jars with bubbles, and they're colored. There's a letter on top that tells you what color it is, and you blow on to the paper, and the bubble bursts and leaves a mark on the paper."

The assembled toddlers chattered with excitement as Shetler welcomed them into the room for Summer Crafts. The program, held monthly at the Needham Free Public Library, is just one of many that are designed to engage the youngest members of the community.

"We do open-door crafts once a month for kids two and up," said Shetler as the kids around her studiously attended to their projects. "We like to give them a variety of experiences every time. Mostly, we're interested in process. We try to find things that the process can yield a good product."

There were certainly plenty of fine products around the room. On each table, different crafts - from a "fire-breathing dragon" (a toilet paper roll with red and orange streamers glued to one end) to a kazoo to the aforementioned bubble paintings - tantalized the creative children. On the wall, a diverse melange of paint, construction paper and glue served as a reminder of crafts past.

"We do a lot of crafting at home, too. They're used to it," said Samantha Riley, a nanny who'd come with her three charges. "I bring them to the library almost weekly, and everyone knows their name."

Just in front of her, Alex, Andrew and Ellen Fisher worked diligently on their bubble paintings. Their deep, steady concentration belied the seeming randomness of using colored bubbles as their artistic medium.

"They have a lot of programs here," said Riley. "The art program here is really interactive. They always have really good crafts. Everyone's always helpful - it's very user-friendly to come in and get your ways around."

"We try to do a variety of things for all ages, starting with early literacy - with babies and toddlers - just to help them realize that the library is an important part of the community," said Diane Shetler as she calmly circulated the room, supervising and offering guidance to the miniature Picassos. "And of their learning process," she added.

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