The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Holiday story time event at GR Ford Presidential Museum promotes culture, reading

Courtesy | Experience GR

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids aimed to bring holiday cheer and cultural learning through its free multicultural storytelling program on Dec. 23 and 29. The museum hosts free story times every month, but its Holiday Story Time event is what started the monthly events.

The story time, inspired by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg and his book “The Polar Express,” is accompanied by a large train display much like the locomotive in the story. 

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic shut them down, the Holiday Story Time event wasn’t offered again until 2022. Richard Weld, education specialist at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, agreed to restart the story time events because of his love for children and books. 

“I love seeing kids get excited about books,” Weld said. “My mom was a librarian, so I’ve got a long history of loving books.” 

Weld re-introduced the Holiday Story Time event and additional free monthly story times for children ages kindergarten to second grade. The books featured in the story times are meant to represent different cultures and lifestyles to include all attendees, which is part of Weld’s plan for growth.

“I wanted to expand it (the story time program),” Weld said. “There is always some degree of multiculturalism. I like to have people see themselves in the books and in the museum.”

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum aims to stay true to its roots in Grand Rapids and offer exhibits, events and programs that educate and bring the community together. The Holiday Story Time event and monthly story times offer children the opportunity to learn and grow within their own community.   

“We like to think that kids who read and are engaged (in their reading) grow up to be engaged citizens of their community and vote and get involved in American life,” Weld said.  

Additionally, holding story time events at the museum offers the added opportunity for children to hear the story of how someone raised in their hometown, Gerald R. Ford, grew up to be president of the United States.

Despite the fact that it isn’t uncommon for only a few people to show up to these story time events, Weld and the museum staff continue reading for those that do show up.

There are also many other organizations that offer opportunities for children of all ages to attend story time events in Grand Rapids.    

“We’re small and growing,” Weld said. “There are a lot of story times in this community, which is fantastic. We’re happy to be part of it.”  

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum will continue to offer free monthly story time events for children despite the attendance. Event organizers believe children should have many opportunities to become involved and interested in reading, especially books that have educational value. 

“We’d love to see more people, but as long as children are getting their story time needs met, we’re happy people,” Weld said. “We just want kids to read and to grow up and to love books.”

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