By Dedra Cordle
When the Magic Key Story Hour was first introduced to the community nearly two decades ago, members of the Westland High School Key Club who were tasked with leading the program were unsure as it how it would be received.
“It was very much a pilot program,” said Jim Hamm, a former advisor at the school and a long-standing member of the local Kiwanis Clubs. “We had no idea if children would show up for it, had no idea if they would want to come back, and we really had no clue if it would still be around in the future.”
But a remarkable thing occurred, he said, as the community became more aware of what the program was and the mission behind it.
“They came, they kept coming and this award-winning project is still around,” he said.
For a limited time each year, current members of the school’s Key Club meet at the Westland Area Library to set up stations for children throughout the community.
“They come in early on a Saturday, pick up a bunch of crafts and supplies and books, prepare one of the meeting rooms and take it from there,” said Jessica Williams, a youth services associate.
The first date of this year’s Magic Key Story Hour program took place on Nov. 3 with a new crop of students at the helm.
“Most of our Key Club students leading the story hour have not participated (in Magic Key Story Hour) before, so we’ll see how it goes,” said advisor Brad Kramer shortly before the event kicked-off.
When the program started around 1 p.m., curious children started peeking around the door frame, eyes and faces lighting up when they saw tables full of construction paper, stickers, glitter, glue and pre-cut patterns to make holiday crafts.
“It’s fantastic,” said 8-year-old Jai Sin.
Welcoming them was roughly 12 Westland High School students who were eagerly anticipating this day.
“I’ve been looking forward to being involved in this program for a long time,” said freshman Mercedes Schultz. “I had heard so many great things about this program before coming to the school and I couldn’t wait to sign up.”
At first, the students provided assistance to the handful of children as they made crafts, then led them in a game of pin-the-feathers on the turkey. Though the children seemed more interested in going back to the craft station afterwards, they did manage to make it to the rug for story time.
“Sometimes we have to adapt to what the children want,” said Kramer. “We always try to have the students read more books during story hour but sometimes it’s hard to pull the kids, both the children here and our students, away from the craft stations.”
Local resident Janel Ingram said she took a slight detour from her regular Saturday afternoon date at the library with son Jai when she saw the sign posted for the Magic Key Story Hour near the entrance. She said at first they just wanted to see what was going on, but decided to stay when they saw so many people having fun.
“I think it’s just wonderful that you have these high school students volunteering their time to help little kids make crafts and read to them,” she said. “It seems to be a fantastic program and I would definitely bring him back for their next event.”
The Magic Key Story Hour will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month through March. Schultz said children should expect more holiday themed crafts and related games and books. The program is held at the Westland Area Library, located at 4740 West Broad St.