By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
A group of elementary-aged students received a visit from state Sen. Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk during their normally scheduled summer reading program Thursday morning.
As part of a resolution Tkaczyk brought to the Senate floor recently, she stopped into the Amsterdam Free Library to read the children a book written by a student from the capital district.
Most of the children were regulars to the summer reading program, even though they are still learning to read.
"Reading is something you have to learn to do, and when you have moms and dads read books to you, it all helps so it's great that you're here," Tkaczyk told the group.
The book, signed by now 16-year-old author Natasha Permaul, is filled with drawings by some of the other students in her Albany County middle school class and tells the story from the perspective of a Karner Blue butterfly, an endangered species.
Permaul wrote the book when she was 12 years old.
"Hi, my name is Mister Karner Blue, I will tell you about my life," Tkaczyk read from "Mister Karner Blue" to the children. "I was not this handsome butterfly just like that. Boy, did I have to go through some changes."
Over the summer, Tkaczyk said she was reading to a group of second graders and she brought them coloring books with the state's flower, bird and muffin within the pages. However, it didn't have an insect.
"I asked the kids what they thought the state insect should be, before learning that we actually do have a state insect," Tkaczyk said. "It's the nine-spotted ladybug. But, I got a letter from some students who said we should honor the Karner Blue butterflies and then I found this book."
Tkaczyk asked the reading program children if they had ever seen butterflies, to which nearly all the children volunteered stories of times they'd seen one around their homes or at a park. She reminded them that it's important that the butterflies stick around for children of other generations to see.
"I want to encourage kids to do more to get involved in understanding the world around them," Tkaczyk said after the reading. "I thought what a great experience to have the schools and the children helping to understand the environment and how important it is to protect environments for endangered species."
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission of the Discovery Center helped the middle school publish Permaul's book. It has a facility where kids can learn about the environment and habitats.
Tkaczyk said she wanted to recognize that collaboration by touring the area school districts and libraries.
"I love reading to kids and encouraging them to read," Tkaczyk said. "Libraries in the summer are the place to be for kids and I know when we instill the love of learning at a very young age, it does stay with them."
Tkaczyk told the group that her 14-year-old son used to love going to the library when he was younger and still loves reading.
"I can't get a book out of his hand," Tkaczyk said. "That's his favorite activity. I think the key is if you get them reading, they'll go through the computer phase, the GameBoy phase, but they'll find reading so much more satisfying and they'll go back to it."
Nicole Hemsley, acting director of the Amsterdam Free Library, said she thinks reading should start in a child's life much earlier and the library is looking into expanding the preschool story to include, or introduce a separate program for, toddlers and infants.
"We need you to read early and read well," Tkaczyk said. "Reading should start a lot earlier than kindergarten. Having the libraries are so important because it's free, you have the world at your fingertips."
A signed copy of "Mister Karner Blue" is available at the Amsterdam Free Library.