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Couple shares joy of reading with Captiva ‘buckaroos’

By Staff | Jun 25, 2009

Clad in bandanas, denim and chaps, Cowboy Jim and Cowgirl Lori – better known as husband and wife Jim and Lori Chartier – gave Captiva kids and visitors a good old fashioned time with their “Rootin’ Tootin’ Reading Roundup,” part of the Captiva Memorial Library and Lee County Library System’s “Be Creative @ Your Library” summer reading program.

The Chartiers, who also do shows for adults, make up the talented team behind Show Time for Kids (part of their bigger company, Eye FX Entertainment).

“We’ve been together 18 years,” Jim said.

“And we’ve been doing magic the whole time!” Lori added.

Jim, who is also a professional magician, and Lori, a professional singer, fuse their talents and vivacious presence into a rip-roaring stage show, not only to entertain, but to educate and express just how fun reading can be.

The high-energy show, accented with wondrous magic tricks, colorful balloon sculptures and silly slapstick comedy, takes young people on a western adventure as they search for the missing pieces of Cactus Sam’s mystery message.

The kids travelled with the Chartiers to different ranches, trying to stay one step ahead of the reading bandits while searching out strips of paper belonging to the page containing Cactus Sam’s mystery message – each piece is usually discovered by putting on their 10 gallon thinking caps and saying the magic word, “yee haw!”

What’s perhaps most interesting about the Chartiers, is that when they perform, they don’t condescend to their audience as mere pupils, but rather pique the youngsters’ interests by inviting them into an exciting world of fun, reading and adventure.

Though the kids may not realize it, the Chartiers’ entertaining and adventurous presentation is infused with witty word play – including a special anagram at the end – and cleverly disguised reading exercises.

Audience participation is a key element in the Chartiers’ shows, and one lucky cowgirl, six-year-old Madison Recker, was selected to help the duo magically put all the missing pieces together.

“I try to make sure audience participation is in all the shows. I don’t like to have the kids just sitting down and watching. The idea is to get them involved because if they’re involved, they’re into the show,” James said.

“And they’ll retain it and it motivates them to read more when they’re involved with the reading in the show,” Lori added.

Once the perusing posse had the message, Cactus Sam himself – in all his colorful balloon glory – showed up, saying that the mystery message can only be read by decoding and reassembling all the letters of the various ranches the kids had visited.

After pulling up two brave buckaroos from the audience, the Chartiers unscrambled all the letters from the “Advantage,” “Tree” and “Cider” ranches to form Cactus Sam’s mystery message: “Get creative and read!”

At the end of the show, each grinning cowpoke was awarded their very own paper, certifying that they are now official reading ranchers.

“All the shows are very fun. We try to incorporate slapstick comedy, balloons and reading, so we don’t just stick to one category,” Jim said, noting that the couple loves to do holiday shows. Last year their theme was pirates, this year cowboys and they’re getting ready to start building a new show for next year.

“If you go to our Web site, you can read about all the different shows we have and there are also videos you can see,” Lori said.

To learn more about the Chartiers and their extensive list of programs for both kids and grown ups, visit www.showtimeforkids.com.

Next Thursday at 3 p.m., the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge will present a program about the wildlife of Southwest Florida.

If you have any questions about the Captiva Memorial Library, located at 11560 Chapin Lane, or their summer reading programs, call 472-2133.