Adriana Zoder: Local libraries offer instructive summer fun

Jul. 17, 2014 @ 05:22 PM

Recently, we attended Birds of Prey for the second year in a row at the Gatlinburg Library. The one-hour program by the American Eagle Foundation presented seven birds of prey that are taken care of by this nonprofit organization. They don't just have eagles there. They also have owls, vultures and hawks.

This year, the bald eagle was a bit flustered, so he really challenged his handler. The foundation brought free books and handouts for children to have. We heard the stories of how these birds came to live at the foundation. Although I have never fancied myself an ornithologist, I enjoyed the presentation.

And even though I heard it before, I learned new things. You never know when you might run into a bird of prey, sitting with a broken wing at your doorstep. That's when you would have to know whom to call.

We also attended the Reader's Theater production at the Anna Porter Public Library – four adorable kids reading their lines on cue and switching between small mask props hanging from their necks. Bravo to the children's librarian who wrote the scripts based on four popular children's books. Bravo to the kids – and their parents, who made the effort to bring them to the library for rehearsals. If you did not see this show, you missed out.

Last but not least, I would like to mention Jeff Alt's “Take a Hike” program at the Pigeon Forge Library. I call it that because of his catchy tune by that name. This library program may have been called something else, officially. You can hear this song on YouTube, by the way.

Mr. Alt's program included a story about hiking in the Smokies and how the national park came to be. He brought lots of props, which the kids could hold up. The scenes changed several times, so many children had a chance to participate. The following week, as we traveled to Cades Cove as a family, our son asked if this was the spot where there was logging before – so I know he learned something during that program.

Jeff Alt has written several books about hiking. He has been featured in print, blogs, radio and TV nationwide including ESPN, CNN-Radio, Discovery, USA Today, Hallmark Channel, the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Adventure, Scholastic Parent & Child, and U.S. News & World Report, among others. You can connect with him on his website,

His wife, Beth, and children took active part in the program. I could not tell that his wife used to be a reluctant hiker. His book about their first long hike together, "Four Boots One Journey," sounds hilarious. A tragic event inspired Jeff to convince Beth to take this long hike with him – Beth's brother passing away. An award-winning book initially published under the title "A Hike for Mike," this volume is also part of a depression awareness campaign.

Let me finish by quoting his song: “Sitting on the couch and your belly is growing a pouch, take a hike, take a hike... Kids are out of school, and you don't know what to do, take a hike, take a hike... Feeling kind of stressed and your life is a mess, take a hike, take a hike... Let's all go and take a hike...”

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the award-winning blog Her book, 101 Tips for Preschool at Home, is available on Amazon.