Lego building underway at Turlock library

naustin@modbee.comFebruary 24, 2014 

— Brick by brick, builders worked away at the Turlock branch library. Idyllic homes, solid forts, a ship, a shop – all going together without paperwork, code concerns or a dime from taxpayers.

At day’s end, young creators left their works for the public to enjoy. Two weeks or so from now, brick by Lego brick, Shilin Patel will take them all apart again. Thousands of itty-bitty pieces go into one giant tub, with chubby connecting blocks for toddlers stored in another.

Shilin, 16, said he grew up a prodigious Lego builder. “I think started about 4, with the kits. Then I started to modify them,” he said, eventually creating a full-fledged city. Monday, the nearly 40 youngsters playing on blankets sprawled across the children’s section had their hands on a page of Shilin’s history. He donated his personal collection to get the library program started.

“It just sat there,” said Shilin’s mother, Karen Patel of Turlock. “Thousands of pieces – 12 years’ worth. That’s all he ever asked for, for Christmas and birthdays.”

Now a junior in Modesto High’s International Baccalaureate program, Shilin said he has little time for city building. But what started out as a way to get some community-service hours has blossomed into a new pastime to enjoy. “I get to build again,” Shilin said as he passed bricks to 6-year-old Max Howey.

Max, digging intently through a pile of pieces to add to his “bad guy fort,” said the Lego character he perched on a parapet needed “a flamethrower. He’s super-crazy.” He asked Shilin if he could add wheels. “Maybe we could build a tank with this?”

Max’s grandmother, Rachel Martinez, watched with a smile. “He was so shy the first time he came,” she said.

Karen Patel said she and Shilin approached the Stanislaus County Library’s Turlock branch with their idea and, given the go-ahead, have furnished the time and raised the money to get the toddler blocks. “We’ve lived all over, and what we found here was not that many kids had opportunities to be creative in school. And Legos are one of the best ways to be creative,” she said. “Everybody wants to build.”

Building is fun, yes, but parents and grandparents watching their charges said the biggest draw was a chance to play with other kids. “My grandson gets to interact with other kids. He gets to imagine,” said Beth Bream as Logan Bream, 5, assembled the early outline of a truck.

“I try to do all this stuff with the library – crafts, story time. I did it with my girls,” said Denice Nunes, watching grandson Jasper Reimers, 4. “It gives my grandson time to interact, and use his imagination, and build!”

The monthly program has become a family staple, with 60 to 100 kids coming each time, Karen Patel said. They have branched out to a Boys & Girls Club in Merced as well. “It just seems like it was one of those things that was meant to be,” she said.

The next Lego Day will be 3:30 to 5 p.m. March 24 at the Turlock branch library, 550 N. Minaret Ave.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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