Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 19, 2013

Digging into learning

Interactive library program teaches children about animals

By Jessie Hellmann Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Jerry Ousley’s 7-year-old grandson David got to pet almost all of the animals at the Silly Safari, including a rabbit named Bunny FuFu, an armadillo and even a 7-foot-long yellow Burmese python.

But David said his favorite was Jenna the dog.

Ousley said he brought David to the event, sponsored by the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Tuesday morning because his grandson loves animals.

“He’s an animal nut,” Ousley said with a chuckle. “He’s not afraid of them. He picks up snakes, and he just loves it.”

While David loved Jenna the dog, he has a soft spot for some friendly felines.

“And I have five cats!” David said excitedly.

David and about 50 other munchkins all clamored for a chance to see and pet animals at the Silly Safari event in Jackson Morrow Park as part of the KHCPL’s summer reading program.

Silly Safari, which is based in Indiana, gives live animal conservation education programs all over the state and the nation.

Because the library chose “Dig into Reading” as this year’s summer reading program theme, the Silly Safari brought several animals known for digging to show off to the kids.

Many of the animals coaxed coos of adoration from the audience. That includes Raydon, the Fennec Fox, the smallest wild K9 in the world.

“These claws aren’t just good for digging, but for combing hair,” said Austin “Conda” from the Silly Safari, as he playfully brushed the animal’s paw through a volunteer’s hair.

Some animals didn’t bring as much admiration from the children, such as the Mr. Snuggles, the skunk who tried to pass for a cat.

As he brought Mr. Snuggles out of his cage, a collective “ew” swept through the group.

“This is my kitty cat, Mr. Snuggles,” Austin said. “He’s a kitty cat in his heart. That’s all that matters.”

He explained to the children that they were in no danger of getting sprayed because skunks can only spray once every two weeks, and when they feel they are in danger.

Some of the other animals on display included some exotic cockroaches, a ferret, a tortoise named Shelby, an owl named Hoooligan and Bubba the bullfrog.

Joy Rogers, bookmobile supervisor for the KHCPL, said Silly Safari is a program the library has almost every year.

“They’re a wonderful organization, and kids of all ages love it,” Rogers said. “Kids love it, adults love it, and we always have a great turnout every year we have it.”

Rogers said the program teaches children by allowing them to see and feel unique animals, so it’s a good educational experience.

“They don’t get the chance to do this very often at all,” Rogers said. “Almost every child here has touched a snake after today, and that’s very good for them to learn not to be scared.”

summer reading program events · 7-8 p.m. June 20 at KHCPL Main: Unearth Sheltered Reality drum lessons for children · 6:30-7:30 p.m. June 25 at KHCPL Main: Beneath the Surface: Tombstone Art & Symbolism · 7-8 p.m. June 27 at KHCPL Main: Tunnel for Asante Tales