By Gary Harki
For the Dominion Post
Donn Marshall took his children to the Book A Trip Around the World story hour held at the Morgantown Public Library on Saturday. The program allowed children to explore different cultures at stations set up throughout the building.
Marshall knelt beside his 3-year-old daughter, Chandler, as she watched Lithuanian dancers in the front of the windows. He, like most parents at the event, seemed to be enjoying it as much as his children.
But Marshall was far more intimately involved with Book A Trip Around the World than the other parents. He helped plan and sponsor the event through the Shelly A. Marshall Foundation, in honor of his late wife, who was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. He set up the Shelly A. Marshall Foundation in her memory.
The Foundation sponsors events such as Book A Trip Around the World to share the passions of Shelley Marshall. The organization also sponsors intergenerational tea parties, creative writing contests and art workshops. Most of the events take place in Monongalia County, where Donn grew up, and in the D.C. area, where the Marshalls lived.
Book A Trip Around the World was held because of Shelly's love of reading, and also to help children understand other cultures in the wake of September 11.
"It is a race against time," Marshall said. "The world does not have to be a scary place, and teaching children this is part of the fight."
At the beginning of the event, Marshall read the book "Toot and Puddle" to the crowd of about 50 children seated in front of him. The book was about two friends, one of whom roamed the earth and the other who enjoyed a quiet life at his home.
After finishing the book, Marshall spoke to the children.
"The reason we are here today is because of September 11th," Marshall said. "I don't understand why it happened, and I don't expect you to understand. But today we are going to show you how great it is to be different."
Children then got to use their fake passports to roam different parts of the earth without ever leaving the library.
There was origami to be made in the basement, right next to a smorgasbord of different foods from around the world. The first floor offered Lithuanian and belly dancing, and a 10-foot python from Africa that had once roamed the Arboretum.
Upstairs, a souvenir shop was set up with boomerangs, Chinese finger puzzles and an assortment of toys and artifacts from around the world. Kids could "buy" items with their fake library money and get coins throughout the world as change. No one was allowed into the souvenir shop until they had stamps from four of the different countries on their passports.
"This event has been a year in the planning," said Cathy McMaster, who works at the library and helped
with the event. "With September 11th being so close, this sends an important message. We have been holding these reading hours with the Marshall Foundation since February of 2002. This is definitely one of the biggest."
Marshall said he plans to make Book A Trip Around the World a yearly event.
"People have really been coming out of the woodwork to help," said Marshall's cousin Joan Bissett. "It is really a tribute to Morgantown volunteers."
The Shelley A. Marshall Foundation also plans to buy a book mobile for the Morgantown Public Library.
"We are still in the early stages of that," said Marshall. "We will work with the library to see what needs to be done for that to happen."