The force of reading is strong at the library’s Star Wars Reads

The Lawrence Public Library and Creates Lawrence don’t want reading to be something children did a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

So the two teamed up on Saturday for the second annual Star War Reads day, a national event sponsored by publishers of “Star Wars”-related books to promote reading.

Artists and engineers with Lawrence Creates put together a green-screen lightsaber battle area, a Jabba the Hutt bean bag toss, a “cantina” with pizza and “Dagobah Drink”, and a Wookiee yelling contest. There even was a cardboard pit full of balloons and craft paper in which children could reenact the famous trash compactor scene from the original “Star Wars” movie.

With the new library building under construction, teen services librarian Karen Allen said, space for the event was limited. So the library moved it to Lawrence Creates’ offices at 512 E. 9th Street. While Lawrence Creates’ main function is as an economic development organization, Director Eric Kirkendall said he wanted the organization’s space to be open to families.

“We want to do family events where parents and children can come create,” he said.

Given all the sights and sounds of George Lucas’s epic movie series, the real goal of encouraging reading might be lost — but as it turns out, “Star Wars”-themed books are pretty popular with children. Kim McElwain said her two sons, Caleb, 4, and Evan, 6, began watching the “Star Wars” movies with their father, but now the boys are using the saga to learn reading skills.

“I think we’ve checked out about all the ‘Star Wars’ easy readers the library has,” she said.

Erin Wood agrees that the “Star Wars” books have helped her children learn to read. Her 10-year-old son Ethan began with easy readers and worked his way up to longer chapter books.

“I think that’s definitely helped him improve,” she said. “I’m surprised he can remember all the different characters.”

For Ethan, the books are better than the movies. He prefers reading stories about Luke Skywalker’s children to watching the classic films.

“They’re kind of fake-y because they’re so old,” he said.