Lights, Camera, Read


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 With lights shining brightly and a digital video camera recording,  children read a  passage or paragraph from their favorite book while their image is on the big screen TV.




Then I read from my favorite book, Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam.  That book was later made into the movie  October Sky.  

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After viewing a short video clip of Homer's first unsuccessful rocket launch,  I explain the basics of rocketry before we go outside and launch several 2 liter bottle rockets that are powered by water and air.  The program finally features several Estes Rockets that jet into the sky and return softly with a parachute recovery system. My grandson Jeff and his friend Rick served as the launchers and chasers. 

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 The following article was taken from the 2003 July 4th edition of the Bolingbrook Sun.

Have a blast

Rocket program designed to attract kids, encourage reading

By Lauren B. Kraft

  Even though the library might be the last place kids want to go during the school year, it isn't just about reading and research during the summer.   This week retired teacher Greg Lopatka brought his model rockets to the Fountaindale Public Library to teach kids about rocketry and reading.

  The Downers Grove resident read from one of his favorite books, Homer Hickam Jr.'s "Rocket Boys." The movie "October Sky" was based on the book.   Lopatka showed a video clip of Hickam's first rocket launch in the yard of his childhood home from the movie "October Sky." He also encouraged children to read before he brought them outside to see a model rocket launch.

  When he was a teacher in Chicago, the rocket section of his science classes always riveted his students, Lopatka said.   "Science and rockets were the easiest things to motivate my students," Lopatka said.

The summer reading program, Lights, Camera ... Read! is intended to do the same thing for Fountaindale children.   "That's our goal," said Karen T. Anderson, the district's director. "To bring kids into the library, have some fun and keep their reading skills going during the summer."

  Research shows if children read throughout the summer, they can keep building on the skills they learned during the school year, Anderson said.   With programs like Cold Blooded Creatures and Flight of Fantasy, the library district is looking to entertain as well as educate children.

  They'd like to get entire families into the library to encourage children to read, said Carol Feldberg, school programs associate for the district.

  Even those who aren't signed up for the free Lights, Camera, Read! can take part in the programs. They are open for all ages.

  The library staff sets out books based on the subject of each program so children can learn more if the program piques their interest.

  Lopatka encouraged the children to read "Rocket Boys" before he blasted off three model rockets that his grandson, Jeff Lopatka, and friend, Rick Topolewski, retrieved from a field behind the library.

  "Most of the performers, when they come in, the type of entertainment they are doing, they are always stressing to read books" on the same subject, Feldberg said.

  For more information about the reading program, call the library at (630) 759-2102.

  Contact staff writer Lauren B. Kraft at or (815) 439-4348.

 This picture by the Bolingbrook Sun staff photographer, Nolan Wells, really captures the fascination and wonder of rocketry.


The camera is connected to a large screen TV, so that children can see their friends and themselves read.   I can also take digital still pictures of each child and print them a souvenir copy that they can take home.  I have a photo quality printer that can do this without much cost. ($25)  I could have them ready in a day or two.  You could then use the pictures as an incentive for the children to show up at your next event, or at an "end of summer" party.

For more information about my programs, go to my 

Presentations Page.

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In areas where a rocket launch is difficult, we use water and air pressure from a bicycle pump to launch a 2 liter bottle 25-35 feet into the air.

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