EDUCATOR AND CHILDREN’S AUTHOR Rohan Henry reads his new book, “The Perfect Garden,” to children at Bowdoin College at Monday’s Martin Luther King Day event.

EDUCATOR AND CHILDREN’S AUTHOR Rohan Henry reads his new book, “The Perfect Garden,” to children at Bowdoin College at Monday’s Martin Luther King Day event.

BRUNSWICK

Children, parents and community members filled the Daggett Lounge at Bowdoin College on Monday for a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Music, storytelling and crafts highlighted the event as Portland educator and children’s author Rohan Henry presented kids with a dramatic reading of what will be his fourth book, “The Perfect Garden.”

CHILDREN SURROUND a craft table at Bowdoin College during Monday’s event.

CHILDREN SURROUND a craft table at Bowdoin College during Monday’s event.

Co-coordinators Judy Montgomery and Helen Hill said the themes for this year are growing a community and shining a light. Montgomery said the Bowdoin library-sponsored program began about 12 years ago with a group of about 25 people.

Last year, Montgomery said, the event drew more than 200 people from as far away as Portland and Lewiston.

“This has a little seriousness to it, but what this is really about is to have children come and kind of hear the words of Dr. King and understand a little about his philosophies but less pedantic and more in terms of enjoying the music and hearing the stories,” Montgomery said.

Tahnthawan Coffin was there with her two boys, Freddy, 4, and Oscar, 7. Coffin said this is their third year attending the event.

“ I think living in Brunswick we need to seize all the opportunities we can to educate our kids about diversity,” said Coffin, who grew up in Brunswick with a Thai mother.

Coffin said she remembers things being even less diverse growing up with no programs, such as the King celebration at Bowdoin.

“It’s changing as a place. I do feel like there is more diversity and I feel like at least there are so many more opportunities to educate kids about how the world outside of Brunswick is,” Coffin said.

Elisabeth Hardcastle and her children, Everett, 4, and Amelia 7, made the snowy trip from their home in New Gloucester. It was their first year attending and Hardcastle said she was happy to find out there was a children’s event.

“It’s important to recognize how important this holiday remembrance is,” Hardcastle said, adding her daughter is beginning to really understand the life and work of King.

After presenting his book, Henry made his way around the crowd, greeting guests. At one point, a young boy who had just made a cardboard candle at the craft table anxiously showed his work to Henry. Candles were one of the projects children made in conjunction with singing “ This Little Light of Mine.”

“We need a lot of light if we’re going to grow our community,” Henry said to the boy, telling him what a good job he did.

Henry said that while many people are familiar with King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, there are many other, perhaps more obscure speeches that should be looked at. The one that inspired his theme for the kids Monday came from a speech before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In that speech, King encouraged people to press on. Turning that into terms children can understand, Henry focused on the word “grow.” He said kids can understand growing because they are growing.

“It’s an ‘in’ to something bigger, much more profound. But given that ‘in’ — that takeaway to go home and say this crazy guy with the dreadlocks from Jamaica who loves and adores Dr. King is here. And talking to them about the different ways you can grow — you can grow friendships, you can grow family, you can grow community,” Henry said.

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