Birds of Wonder

Birds of Wonder

Throughout the month of June, the IU East Campus Library hosted afternoon programming for Richmond’s Reading Academy, a full day of classes focused on reading and writing over a 4 week period. An initiative of Every Child Can Read, Inc., the Reading Academy is a program that works to ensure that every child can read at reading level by the third grade. To provide creative academic enrichment, the Campus Library team, with IU East student, staff, and faculty volunteers, planned and implemented a variety of programming activities, such as weaving, riddle creation, nature journaling, science experiments, and yoga. Assistant Librarian of Access and Technical Services Beth South volunteered to lead two programs, both inspired by the Indiana Humanities One State/ One Story: World of Wonders community read. The Campus Library received a grant to participate in Indiana Humanities 2022 One State/One Story program and host several programs and a book discussion around the novel World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (2020).

Nezhukmatathil writes about the plants and animals that inspire and interest her, and she speaks about birds quite often throughout her book, with seven chapters devoted to a different bird and another chapter focused on a bird hike she took with her sons. This focus on birds inspired two different activities: an art activity session featuring birds from around the world and a bird hike.

Birds of the World Art Activity

The Potoo and the Southern Cassowary illustrated by Fumi Mini Nakamura, Word of Wonders

Another unique attribute to Nezhukmatathil’s World of Wonders is the inclusion of beautiful illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura. The goal of the “Birds of the World” session led by Beth South, was for students to learn about different birds from around the world and then draw and color a version of one that interested them. 

The June 22 program for The Reading Academy had 19 third graders actively discussing the characteristics that birds share, where they are found, and how they are important to us and our environment. Using a multimedia presentation she created, Beth talked about the birds featured in World of Wonders, like the potoo and the southern cassowary, and a few other birds of interest, such as the laughing kookaburra and ivory-billed woodpecker.  Students looked at the artwork of Fumi Mini Nakamura and other artistic renditions of birds from books, then they were able to choose a bird that interested them and create their own version of it with crayons and markers on cardstock.  

Figure 1 Beth talking about the Superb Bird of Paradise (Ill. By Fumi Nakamura)
Figure 2 Reading student and library assistant drawing their birds.
Figure 3 Students selecting the bird they want to draw.

As the children were working, Beth located on YouTube the birds that the children selected, so they could view what their bird looked like in real life and hear the birds’ call.  

For this session, there were several books purchased that depicted illustrated birds that were helpful and inspired the students’ creativity. These reading materials were used in conjunction with World of Wonders to match the reading level and program activity of the students. 

Bird Count Hike

The second bird-focused session, on June 27, related to World of Wonders was a bird hike. Based onNezhukmatathil’s chapter titled “Questions while searching for birds with my half-white sons, aged six and nine, National Audubon Bird Count Day, Oxford, MS,” Beth read the book Counting Birds: The idea that helped save our feather friends by Heidi E.Y. Stempe, discussing the importance of counting birds, how a bird census can help us understand what’s happening in our environment, and ways the students can be citizen scientists. Beth then led seven second graders and three adults out on a hike along the cross-country trails behind Hayes Hall. Students were given binoculars and a notebook to document the number of birds they see, what they hear, and other information that interests them. Throughout the hike, Beth stopped to share tips on bird watching and talked about the different birds that students may see or hear during their walk.

Figure 4 Kids bird watching and taking notes.
Figure 5 Beth with students after the hike.

Besides Counting Birds by Heide Stempe, which the Campus Library already owned, there were two other youth reading materials that were purchased and helpful for this activity.

Nezhukmatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments was a helpful starting point of discussion for two creative and active programs for the 2022 Reading Academy. Both the birds of the world art activity and the bird hike were well received by the students and their teachers. For any questions about these activities or any other Indiana Humanities’ World of Wonder Community Read programs hosted by the Campus Library in Fall 2022, contact Beth South at For additional information or research about birds, Ask Us! or click here:

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