By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Library programming came to a standstill in March when fears of coronavirus loomed over the country. Spring book sales were axed, lectures were postponed, and regularly-scheduled children's programming was cancelled. Among all the constant pondering of when life could resume as normal and how our kids could be entertained in the interim, the Walpole Public Library came up with a solution that lets people enjoy their programs from the safety of their own home. Along with a weekly dial-a-story hotline, Walpole Children's Librarian Kara Dean has been producing a series of virtual story times that bring some of kids' favorite books right into their homes.
Virtual programming has become a regularly-scheduled portion of my week as a reporter. I attend lectures, craft times, and children’s programming via the internet. I’m not going to lie, I do save a lot of time being able to work from home instead of getting to libraries early to get the best seat for photo-taking purposes. But I do miss the energy that always came with covering children’s events in person. I log on to Facebook and check the Walpole Public Library page to see what my editor described: a series of daily YouTube videos with different storytimes. There's Virtual Baby Book Time, Virtual Pajama Storytime, and Virtual Preschool Storytime.
Today's is Baby Book Time, so I click on the link. I see Children's Librarian Kara Dean welcoming me (and other viewers) to the video. Instantly, she launches into a rendition of "The More We Get Together." During these story times at the library, I'm used to hearing the squawks of tiny tots and the sight of parents with kids in their laps, clapping along. Instead of her normal audience, Dean is accompanied by three stuffed animals, one of which is Curious George. They are unsurprisingly more quiet than the normal crowd.
Dean presents two books to her audience, one of which is "Animals Should Definitely not Wear Clothing" by Judi Barret. I have never read this book, but I can say that its cover, depicting the saddest (and baldest) looking porcupine, draws me in. As described in the title, the book discusses all of the different mishaps that could happen if animals tried to wear clothing: a camel with hats on its humps, a snake slithering away from a pair of pants, a kangaroo wearing a coat with a joey in one of its pockets. It's altogether a disaster, and I find myself laughing a bit with the turn of each page.
Following the completion of the book, Dean launches into the usual song time, with clapping and funny exercises, which would surely have all the babies in the room giggling. Then, she introduces Turtle, a puppet with a fun story. "I have a little turtle. He lives in a box. He swims in the river. He climbs on the rocks. He snapped at the minnow, he snapped at the flea, he snapped at the mosquito," Dean recites before making a snapping motion with the hand puppet and gasping: "He snapped at me!"
Turtle is put away and Dean brings out the final book, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. I know this book very well, and for some reason, feel very proud that I’m well prepared for this story time. To be fair, I'd be shocked by any American from my generation who didn't grow up reading Eric Carle's books. They're classics. As Dean reads aloud, I find myself recalling the words that I thought I forgot long ago: "Green Frog, Green Frog, what do you see? I see a purple cat looking at me."
I had forgotten the final pages of the book, but as Dean reads, I realize they are perfect for this strange time. "Teacher, teacher, what do you see?" the speaker asks. The teacher replies: "I see children looking at me." The children recite all of the animals they've seen throughout the book.
While kids can’t visit with their favorite librarians just yet, they do have the chance to see them during some of these virtual programs. And when they finally get to return to see Miss Dean in person, it’ll feel like no time at all. After all, she’s been reading them stories for weeks. They’ll have new stories to tell their favorite librarians, and she’ll have new tales to tell them. It will be back to the normal routine of library story time.
Those who wish to watch this story time can find it here, along with other story time videos.