Carlyle Kids in Alexandria

Carlyle Kids in Alexandria

Libraries and Carlyle House collaborate for educational and fun summer programming.

Allison Kelley (left) and Diana Price read to local children at “Read, See, Do.”

Allison Kelley (left) and Diana Price read to local children at “Read, See, Do.” Photo by Vernon Miles.

When it comes to summer activities, free is a hard price to beat. A partnership between the Carlyle House and Alexandria Public Libraries called “Read, See, Do” is helping to bring education and summer fun to Alexandria children ages seven through 12.

On July 9, Diana Price from the local libraries stood in front of a small collection of local children. Price was reading through the book “Brick by Brick” by Charles R. Smith Jr. about the construction of the White House. She paused after each page, turning the book to show the illustrations by Floyd Cooper. The material isn’t what you might think of as summer fun reading; it’s the story of how the White House was constructed largely by slave labor, but Allison Kelley from the Carlyle House explained to the children that the house behind them was similarly constructed by slaves. The programs at the Carlyle House focus on helping children understand what life was like for early Alexandrians, and teaching children about the realities of slave labor as a part of that is important.

After the book is read, Price and Kelley help the children construct a paper White House. Every Monday in July, the library and the Carlyle House will host a free reading program and activity tied to the history of the house. The program runs from 2 to 3 p.m. on the Magnolia Terrace behind the house.

“It’s about blending fun and history,” said Kelley.

“It’s about learning new things,” said Price. “We’ve had magicians and travelling zoos for the children. When Allison [Kelley] approached us about this program, we were immediately interested. It’s fun to learn about history and colonial life.”

Price said her favorite experience with the program was putting together a satchel of herbs colonial people would carry to ward off bugs, which she was surprised to find was very effective. Kelley said they will be making the satchels again next month as the lessons move into colonial plant life.

Susan Schwerdtfeger said it was the fact that the program is about Alexandria’s history, and that it was free, that interested her in the program.

“They’ve really liked learning about history in Old Town,” said Catherine Estes, attending the program with her children. “We went last summer and it’s really a worthwhile program for families.”