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(Enlarge) Leslie Eicher (right), a manager at the Leesburg Animal Park in Leesburg, Va., holds Charlie, a green iguana, as Jeanne Seeley, a day manager at the park, talks about Charlie's favorite foods during the "Reading Is Delicious" annual summer reading program sponsored by the Medal of Honor Memorial Library on Tuesday at Burba Lake Cottage. Upcoming events include a magician in July and "mad science" program in August. (Photo by Brian Krista)

When Leslie Eicher, a manager at a Virginia animal park, held in her arms Amelia, a South American raccoon, the children at Burba Lake Cottage were fascinated.

"It was cool," said Olivia Clark, 7, daughter of Capt. Tobias Clark and Ashley Clark. "Her nose could bend and go up and down."

Olivia was one of the about 159 children and parents to attend the first performance of the Medal of Honor Memorial Library's annual summer reading program, "Reading Is So Delicious," on Tuesday.

The free event featured animals from the Leesburg Animal Park in Leesburg, Va. The animals were examples of the wildlife and reptiles that can be found in the South American rain forest.

"We hope [the children] will be inspired to learn more," said Kathy Stikes, a librarian technician who organized this year's summer reading program activities. "Hopefully, the kids will want to help preserve the animals and learn more about them at the library."

Upcoming events at Burba Cottage include "Books, The Magic is Real," featuring magician Joe Romano on July 17 at 10 a.m., and Mad Science of Central Maryland on Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. All events are free. Registration is not required.

Karen Hayward, director of the library, said the goal of the summer reading program is to encourage children to continue reading throughout the summer. This year's program ends Aug. 25.

Participants receive a reading log and a goodie bag. After seven days, they can bring their reading log to the library for additional prizes.

During Tuesday's presentation, Jeanne Seeley, a day manager at the animal park, introduced the children to several different animals and shared interesting facts about their habits.

For example, Amelia's favorite snack are bugs. South American raccoons like her have long claws to help them climb the tall trees in the rain forest and dig deep in the ground for vegetables and insects.

Charlie, a green iguana, is a "very quiet and peaceful kind of guy," Seeley said. Reptiles like him have long claws so they can climb trees to get heat from the sun.

"Charlie's favorite foods are crickets, worms and fruits and vegetables," Seeley said.

Eicher and Seeley also showed the children a red-footed tortoise and a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

But when Eicher held a 6-foot, red-tailed boa constrictor named Sliky on stage, with the help of Pfc. Alex Pool, the children and parents in the audience were amazed.

Seeley said snakes like Sliky eat their prey whole and can take up to two weeks to digest a meal. Sliky weighs 75 pounds and can lay up to 100 eggs.

"I was kind of nervous," said Pool, a member of the Marine Detachment at the Defense Information School. "I never handled a snake like that before. It was big."

Editor's note: For more information about the library's summer reading program, call 301-677-5522.

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