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Reptiles help libraries promote reading program

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Mike Clark (from left), an assistant snake handler from Southeastern Reptile Rescue, hangs a Honduran milk snake around the shoulders of Micah Townsend, of Riverdale, during a presentation, on Thursday.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Mike Clark (from left), an assistant snake handler from Southeastern Reptile Rescue, hangs a Honduran milk snake around the shoulders of Micah Townsend, of Riverdale, during a presentation, on Thursday.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

For Micah Townsend, the feeling was somewhere between "good" and "weird," on Thursday, during a special presentation at the Riverdale branch of the Clayton County Library System.

The weight that was added onto the 10-year-old Riverdale youth's shoulders was not that heavy. He wasn't afraid of the extra load he was carrying. It actually proved to be a fashion accessory, of sorts, because its red, black and orange stripes, matched those on his polo shirt.

Townsend had a three-foot-long Honduran milk snake wrapped around his neck.

The snake was placed on the youngster's shoulders by Southeastern Reptile Rescue Assistant Snake Handler Mike Clark.

"I wasn't scared to have it around my neck, because he [Clark] was holding it," Townsend said. "I wouldn't have been scared that the snake would bite me as long as he was holding it."

The reptile presentation was just one of many programs the Riverdale library branch is holding this summer to promote the library system's summer reading program.

The branch's Youth Services Librarian, Ramona Clark (not related to Mike Clark), said she is trying to mix up the programs offered at the library this summer, with different activities, including animal presentations, puppet shows, and arts-and-crafts exercises.

"We've had other animal presentations in the past, and it's proven to be something adults and children enjoy," Ramona Clark said.

Mike Clark said the Riverdale branch is not the only library to request a reptile presentation from Southeastern Reptile Rescue. "We are doing presentations at libraries every day," he said. "Sometimes, we have three to four libraries a day on our schedule."

In fact, the Riverdale library is not the only branch of the Clayton County Library System that Southeastern Reptile Rescue representatives will visit this summer. It is scheduled to do a similar presentation at the Lovejoy branch on June 23.

During his presentation on Thursday, Mike Clark showed the Honduran milk snake, a desert tortoise, and an alligator, to a room of about 60 local children. He told the youngsters the places where many of the snakes end up living, and why they end up living in those locations. Snakes, for example, may reside in a brush pile, if mice or rats have made a home nearby, he said.

"Not knowing enough about the snake is the biggest problem people have to overcome, "he said. "The more you know about an animal, the less you'll be afraid of it."

Zvonimir Fisic, 11, said he learned that non-venomous snakes can actually serve a positive purpose, if they take up residence in a person's yard. "I learned about how snakes can be a good thing to have in your yard, when they are eating rats," Fisic said.

Several children who attended the reptile presentation had their own opinions about what was the best part, as well as their own unique observations about what they saw. "My favorite was the turtle [tortoise], because they are green, and that's my favorite color," said Regina Thompson, 9.

She attended the event with other youngsters, who were participating in Riverdale First United Methodist Church's "Praise Party" summer program.

"I liked the snake, because I got to touch it," added Riverdale's Brandon Hand, also 9.