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Puppets promote reading
by Jacob Lane · September 25, 2013


The Eulenspiegel Puppet Theater Company and its director, Monica Leo, were honored, Sept. 5, with a Literacy Recognition Award by Iowa's Bi-State Literacy Council.

The award recognizes a business or group's contribution to the fight against illiteracy. Eulenspiegel was chosen due to its active involvement in book recycling at the Annual Children's Festival and its storytelling throughout the years.

"We have a wonderful puppet company in West Liberty, one of the best in the nation," said Director of the Muscatine Literacy Coalition Duffy DeFrance, "They've been around for forty years bringing classic stories to life for people."

She nominated Eulenspiegel because it provides the opportunity, and encourages, groups to give away books at the Children's Festival every year.

For nearly 18 years groups such as RIF (Reading is Fundamental), the West Liberty Library and the Muscatine Literacy Coalition have participated in the event.

Yearly, a table is set up and filled with reading materials of all shapes and sizes for children. By the end of the day a majority of the books are gone, carried around by West Liberty's children.

At the same time the community gets involved with various activities such as face painting, puppet shows and dancing at the children's festival, all free for everyone.

Eulenspiegel also provides educational opportunities for youth throughout the year, using puppets to tell historic, folk, classical and a variety of other stories often found in books.

"EPTC has introduced traditional folktales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, tall tales such as Sal Fink and bilingual shows in English and Spanish with their Mexican partner, Eli Portugal. Via this method, an important cultural legacy is introduced to the next generation," wrote DeFrance in her nomination.

The company has been highly involved with many midwest festivals, schools, libraries, the Muscatine County Arts Council, the Iowa Arts Council, the MacNider Museum in Mason City, the Musser Public Library, and more.

"I don't think they're appreciated enough for what they do," added DeFrance, "They've been around for forty years and Monica makes it look easy. It's not, and she should be honored for that."

The Bi-State Literacy Council, celebrating its 25th anniversary, acknowledged the award at its annual recognition breakfast in Coal Valley, Ill. It presents grants and scholarships to groups and individuals that advocate for reading in the spring and fall.

Monica Leo was honored to get the award, but for her it all came down to the puppets.

"I thought that was great," she said. "I was tickled. It's nice to see that people can see puppets can connect to literacy. We've done a lot of work and we're quite honored."

The 18th Annual Children's Festival will be held Sept. 28 on Third St. Expect free books once again, as well as performances and activities for children from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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