Pottsville library's new club celebrates popular doll, books
The scene was reminiscent of royalty. Elegant table clothes. Candlesticks. Decorative pots and dishes.
"We had tea, played a game and we had snacks," Etain Hatch, 6, said.
Accompanying the Assumption BVM student was Isabelle Palmer, an aspiring dancer who is ready to enter a prestigious program to hone her talents.
Isabelle also has another distinction: She is American Girl's 2014 Girl of the Year.
Hatch and her doll were among about 20 girls who attended the first meeting of the American Girl Doll Club on Feb. 20 at Pottsville Free Public Library.
The free program, held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. every Thursday, is centered around the popular doll and book collection. It is open to girls ages 5 to 12. The club meetings will feature games and crafts, usually based on one of the dolls owned by the library.
"Every week I'll have maybe a little craft or some different games that kind of ties with the historical themes," said Darren DeArment, head of youth services at the library.
The library currently has three dolls: Caroline, whose family is affected by the War of 1812; Josefina, a girl living in New Mexico in 1824; and Addy, a girl escaping slavery during the Civil War.
The idea for the club began about a year ago, according to DeArment. He said library director Nancy Smink saw an article about a library that lends out an American Girl doll and wanted to explore the possibility of such a program in Pottsville.
"She thought it would be a good idea to do that here," DeArment said.
DeArment worked on raising funds for the expensive dolls and was able to buy them last summer. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the club's start date continued to be delayed.
It was during this lull in activity that Smink suggested a tea party to kick off the event. DeArment said he thought the idea was unique and got the process rolling.
DeArment said the attendance at the tea party was on the high end of his prediction. It was a pleasing start for the new club.
"At this point, I'm happy with the turnout," he said.
According to its website, www.americangirl.com, the company launched in 1986 with its first catalogue of historical characters. Since then, the company has reached millions of girls through dolls, books, magazines and movies. Headquartered in Middleton, Wis., the company also has 17 retail stores in the U.S.
This wide appeal was evidence enough that a club would work at the Pottsville library.
"The dolls are huge. They are popular everywhere. I was pretty confident I'd get a lot of interest," he said.
Staying true to its concept, DeArment said girls who are registered for the club will get the opportunity to take a doll home.
"Every week one of the kids will get to take the doll home," he said.
DeArment said the dolls will be on a rotation. One doll will be available for a club member to take home, one doll will be for the general public to checkout and the third doll will receive a weeklong break at the library.
DeArment said the price of the dolls, which are more than $100 without accessories, can be a deterrent for parents. The club is a way for these girls to enjoy a doll, along her hair brush and books, for at least a week.
"That was a big reason to do this," he said.
The American Girl Doll Club follows a LEGO Club that DeArment started at the library in February 2013. While that club is open to boys and girls, he said mostly boys attend. The American Girl Doll Club now gives both genders a chance to be part of a group.
"This way I have programs for boys and girls," he said, adding both clubs are for children ages 5 to 12.
Besides having fun, DeArment hopes the club provides educational value for the girls.
"Each girl has a story. It's a chance to learn about history," he said. "Hopefully this will pique an interest and (they will) learn more about it."
He also hopes the club encourages literacy. He said the library does have American Girl books in its collection.
To learn more about the club or to register, call 570-622-8880 or email email@example.com.