By Johnny Jackson
Reflections of the small aircraft zipped across the tented lenses of Mallory Burt's colorful sun glasses, as she peered through them, looking with an amazement befitting the toddler's newest skyward discovery.
Nineteen-month-old Mallory was one of about 80 children of various ages, to take part in the Fourth Annual Henry County Radio Control "R.C." Fly-In.
The event was a part of the Henry County Public Library System's 2008 Summer Reading Program. It was sponsored and hosted by the Henry County Radio R.C. Club on Wednesday at the club's flying field in McDonough.
"I came out here so that I could provide a new experience for my toddler," said Mel Burt, Mallory's mother. "I think she learned some vocabulary and how to fly a model airplane."
During the event, children were able to experience real flight on a flight simulator. The computer-based simulator - provided by Sky Ventures, a Cumming, Ga.-based flight simulation company - is used to log real-time flight hours for pilots.
"The kids were just having a real ole' time," said Claude Whittle, owner of Sky Ventures and a retired Army aviator. "There's nothing in the world like [flying]. It's a three dimensional world up there and there are no stop signs."
Children who participated in the free event learned how to fly small Balsa Gliders that they were able to take home with them. Following the R.C. Club's air show, participants were instructed on how to fly various radio controlled aircraft.
"I liked the cool tricks that we did ... and the smoke," said 9-year-old Jarod Jackson, an aspiring author and participant in the library system's summer reading program.
Members of the Henry County R. C. Club instructed children on the physics of the airplanes' flight and how to use the radio flying controls. "It's a big thrill to teach a kid to fly," said Jim Brooks, the R.C. Club's event coordinator. "It gives them a great challenge - from the building of the planes to learning how to fly them. It's a great hobby for the kids of all ages. We teach flying to kids from 9 years old up into their 80s.
"It's kind of like a summer thing for the kids," Brooks added. "And they just love it. "
The Henry County R.C. Club is in its ninth year in Henry and currently has 130 members who help put on similar events throughout the year. Wednesday's event included all five branches of the Henry County Public Library System, that, likewise, are all participating in the system's summer reading program.
"[System-wide,] we've had over 2,300 children sign up for the program this year," said Tracy Ralston, children's coordinator for the Henry County Public Library System. "The parents are enjoying it, and the kids seem to be enjoying it."
This year, the library system and others across the state are participating in the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which began at the grassroots in 1987 and has grown into a consortium of states that work together to provide inexpensive summer reading materials for children through public library systems.
Participating systems have access to similar materials and resources. The systems also share the same summer reading program theme. This year's theme for children up to 12 years old is "Catch the Reading Bug." Young adults, ages 12-18, participate in the "Metamorphosis @ Your Library" program.
The summer reading program is available in variations at each of Henry County's public libraries, where would-be participants can sign-up through the end of June. Participants keep reading logs, and are asked to read 20 books, or commit to 10 hours of reading. The libraries will assist children in finding age-appropriate books.
Mel Burt, who recently enrolled her daughter in the summer reading program, routinely reads to her daughter, Mallory, from books in the program. Mallory's current favorite reading is "Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter, according to Burt. "We're very grateful for the Henry County Library System," she added.
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