Reading really is fun-damental

Photos by Karen Zautyk/ It was Gryffindor vs. Slytherin in Quidditch outside the Harrison Public Library last week.

By Karen Zautyk

If you were passing by the Harrison Public Library last Wednesday afternoon, you might have noticed the fierce competition underway on the front lawn.
No, for once, even though this was Harrison, the game wasn’t soccer.
It was Quidditch.
Since many of the players were Muggles (and we do not use that in a prejorative sense), this particular game was ground-based. Although we think we just might have seen a Chaser or two on flying broomsticks up above the treetops. Perhaps.
We couldn’t stay for the entire match, but we did find out that Gryffindor trounced Slytherin.
The friendly combatants were all members of the library’s Young Adult Reading Club, which, this summer focused on the inaugural Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in which the world at large first encountered Quidditch.
The 25 or so young readers, age 8 and up, were guided through their literary adventure by the Hudson County CMP (Creative Motion Players), a nascent community theater group that turned the weekly club meetings into the stuff of magic.
CMP was launched just last November by five  alumni of Hudson County’s High Tech High School, all of whom had gone on to college but who kept in touch – of course – via the Internet.
At the Quidditch patch, we met three: Cindy Yin of Harrison, now a junior majoring in music education at Montclair State University; Lauren Biscaldi of Bayonne, also a junior, studying writing, literature and publishing at Emerson College in Boston; and Julia Eisler of Secaucus, an “undecided” sophomore at New York University.
The other two founders are Nicholas Gonzalez of West New York and Ariane Ryan of Bayonne, attending, respectively,  Stephens Institute and Wagner College.
Working in cooperation with Mary Anne Dunphy, children’s program director, and library director Nelba Meijas, CMP partnered with the Young Adult Reading Club at its seasonal start in early July through to the end of August, teaching hourlong Wednesday afternoon “classes” linked to the Potter book.
And, their program proposal noted, “each class (required) students to participate in hands-on activities, work together with their peers and develop leadership skills.” But in a totally fun way.
Such as the class in Herbology, with students planting and caring for their own basil “as they learn about healthy lifestyle, such as exercising well and eating healthily.” The little pots of basil are now thriving in the library Children’s Room.

Then there was Defense Against the Dark Arts, which focused on combating those “dark arts” encountered by 21st century kids.   This was an exercise in building self-esteem and self-confidence as the children were taught “to identify bullies and stand up to bullies.”
They also studied “spells,”  learning how to turn Diet Coke and Mentos into Mount Vesuvius.
So how did what started out to be a community theater group  get so involved with young Harrison readers?
“We were originally planning a summer theater program, but then the opportunity to work with Ms. Dunphy presented itself,” said Biscaldi, noting, “We wanted to be involved in community outreach, and if we wanted the community to support us, we needed to support the community.”
“It was amazing,”  she continued. “I’ve never worked with kids before. It was fantastic.”
And, Eisler added, “They’re all so smart!”
As for the CMP’s future, Eisler noted that the group needs to concentrate on some fund-raising now in order to put on shows next summer.
“We’re trying to set up some sort of an Open Mic night,”  Yin said.
You can find out more about CMP at and on  Facebook.
New members welcome!

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