Library uses magic to instill joys of reading

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans


Hocus Pocus. Alakazam. Bippidi-Boppidi-Boo. Presto.

Those were some of the phrases 140 local children were screaming during a reading-themed magic show at Lee Street Elementary School on Thursday.

The magic-show performance, by University of Georgia Agriculture Professor Keith Karnok, was sponsored by the Jonesboro Branch of the Clayton County Library System.

The literary world got a little boost from the magic realm, as Karnok performed tricks, including making plastic fish appear out of thin air, after talking about a fishing-themed book, or making "Bermuda Triangle Water" disappear after introducing a book on the infamous, mysterious area.

"In this day and age, everything has got to be themed to catch a child's attention," Karnok said. "So, I do the magic of reading, where I use magic to teach children about the joys of reading."

Karnok's performance was the first in a series of Thursday morning programs the Jonesboro Branch of the library system is hosting this summer to get children excited about reading, according to branch Youth Services Librarian Jennifer Pelt.

Pelt said Karnok came to her attention during a performance showcase that was organized by youth services officials from the Clayton County Library System, and the Flint River Regional Library System in January. "Performers come in and do like 10 minutes of their program, to show us what they do," Pelt said. "Because of the size of the groups that we deal with at our library, we needed someone who could catch the audience.

"This is our first year, where we've had a magician-ventriloquist, that I'm aware of, and a lot of kids, I don't think, have seen a magician or a ventriloquist before. And he also incorporated reading, which is a plus."

Karnok said he does about 50 shows at libraries and schools each summer, but he expects that number will increase in the future, as he is planning to retire from UGA in July. He said he has just always been interested in magic, because of the entertainment aspect.

But for as much magic as Karnok did, and as much as he talked about reading, it was his final bit in his show -- the ventriloquist act -- that children most raved about afterward. This was the act where he "interacted" with "Chuck the Duck," who is a duck who thinks he is a cow, and continually moos when asked to quack.

"I liked when that duck was mooing because he thought he was a cow," said Jonesboro youth, Brian Sims, 7, a student at Song of the South daycare center.

"That was really funny," added another Jonesboro youngster, Dayana Garcia, 5.