GREENBRIER -- Through hilariously failing to make a bunny disappear and other uncanny tricks, Magic Mr. Nick stopped by several Faulkner County libraries Thursday and Friday and encouraged children to continue reading throughout the summer.
Magic Mr. Nick has a busy summer schedule planned out as he aims to stop by 71 libraries during his 2018 Summer Library Tour. Among his scheduled stops, the Log Cabin Democrat had the opportunity to watch Mr. Nick in action as he entertained a packed audience in the Greenbrier Public Library on Thursday afternoon.
Other stops in Faulkner County before heading across the state included libraries in Conway, Vilonia, Twin Groves and Mt. Vernon.
Greenbrier librarians Gail Pollack and Loretta Keathley said these type events encouraged children to become more involved with the library system, which is the starting drive for them to become more independent in their reading endeavors.
"Libraries aren't always a quiet place anymore," Pollack said. "Sometimes, you have to do something like this to encourage [children] to be more outgoing. This lets them see the library can be fun."
Oftentimes, until the library sponsors such kid-friendly events as the magic show held in Greenbrier on Thursday, many children never find themselves within the library's walls.
"A lot of [people] don't come here until something like this [event]," Keathley said. "Afterward, we fill out a lot more [library] cards and continue seeing those faces come back. It opens up a lot of doors."
During his 45-minute performance, Mr. Nick kept the young crowd captivated.
Six-year-old Paige Hood provided support for Mr. Nick's first act, where he pulled out a dove from underneath some handkerchiefs.
Hood was instructed to wave about each handkerchief, one at a time, in a different fashion before the remaining children yelled out the magic words — libraries rule — while waving their hands and fingers so the mysterious skit could follow through.
As the youngsters waved their hands, wiggled their fingers and screamed the magic words, a small, white dove miraculously appeared from underneath the pile of handkerchief's 6-year-old Hood had just handed Mr. Nick.
One act that seemed to be a favorite among the children was Mr. Nick's rabbit trick.
Mr. Nick talked about how he didn't have the right sort of hat to protrude a real, fluffy bunny. However, his grandfather made him a wooden hat where he was able to perform his "rabbit trick" using an inanimate bunny.
Children giggled and hollered as Mr. Nick seemingly didn't notice the bunny's ears were sticking out of the side of the small, black hat after he said the bunny had disappeared. Each time Mr. Nick extended his arm as he questioned the children as to why they were yelling at him, the bunny's ears would appear in a new spot. Each time the bunny's ears jutted out from within the wooden hat, the group of youngsters became increasingly more excited as they attempted to explain to Mr. Nick that he failed to properly make the bunny disappear.
"That rabbit is causing nothing but trouble, I say we make him disappear," Mr. Nick said.
Just as Mr. Nick said he had given up on the trick and put the black hat down, the children realized Mr. Nick's games weren't quite over. As the long-time magician turned around, the youngsters exploded with laughter, pointing to Mr. Nick's behind as two white ears poked out from beneath Mr. Nick's pants.
Toward the end of his performance, Mr. Nick allowed a handful of the children to participate in his version of musical chairs — musical spots. At the end of each round, he would open a folder that contained a book report he'd written as a child and briefed the children, again, on the importance of reading.
Mr. Nick has been in the entertainment business for 30 years.
Through the years, he said a few things remain the same including his love for the job and the need to continuously remind children to never give up on reading.
"Studies show children lose a lot of their reading and comprehension skills over the summer," he told the Log Cabin. "It's important they read books they enjoy, which will help improve their reading comprehension skills throughout the year."
Other summer reading events and library fun can be found at each Faulkner County Library's respective website.
The Greenbrier Public Library has a number of events still scheduled throughout the summer break, including two more magic shows and weekly crafts and story reading sessions. Craft days are held from 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays and story time is at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
Gail said she and Keathley do what they can to get children involved and to teach them the importance of reading. Along with these skills, the Greenbrier Library also has a reading system set up that prepares children for budgeting and teaches them to be responsible. By offering tickets for each book a child reads, the librarians have set up a system that allows the children to buy toys using their earned tickets. The larger the toy found among those in the toy selection, the larger the number of tickets needed to purchase it.
"This gets them to read more and it teaches them responsibility," Gail said. "They know they need to save up their tickets and read more if they want to pick out a larger prize."
For more information regarding the happenings at local libraries, visit the Faulkner-Van Buren Regional Library System's website, www.fcl.org.