By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Everyone has found themselves making changes to their regularly scheduled programming during the COVID era, and libraries are no exception. At the Walpole Public Library, though, the staff has tried its hand at bringing back fan favorites in a pandemic-friendly format. Among these favorites is the popular children’s storytime. Combining storytelling, movement and song, the program is known for keeping tots entertained during their trips to the library. Now, they’re able to enjoy the same experience from their homes, thanks to the use of Zoom and some fantastic librarians.
On Thursday, February 11, the Walpole Public Library hosted their weekly storytime via Zoom. After their parents logged them on, the kids were instantly greeted by Walpole’s Children’s Librarians Leslie Loomis and Kara Dean.
Ms. Loomis launched to some familiar tunes and rhymes, including “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “If You're Happy and You Know It.” After finishing their rendition of some favorite songs, Mrs. Loomis introduced the first book they would be reading, "Peter Loves Penguin" by David McPhail. The story revolves around a little boy and his stuffed animal penguin who enjoy the winter weather - a perfect book for the cold weather.
Dean has been adjusting storytime since the pandemic began, trying to perfect it in its new COVID-altered format. From posting stories online to providing a story hotline, Dean has done just about everything to make sure kids are still able enjoy the library experience while at home. Though storytime ran outside during the summer months, Dean has adopted the virtual format during the colder months. “When I was making adjustments in the spring when everything closed, I never thought I would be doing this long enough to be learning from my previous pandemic experience,” joked Dean.
Ms. Loomis put on a glove that was specially decorated for their next song. “Do you guys know the song about 'The Five Little Monkeys'? I bet you know that,” said Loomis as she added each of the velcro monkeys onto each of her fingers. As they counted off the monkeys, Loomis would remove each of the velcro figures until there were “no more monkeys jumping on the bed.”
Storytime is kept to a 15-minute format, to ensure that kids will stay engaged during the entirety of the Zoom session. “This next story, Mrs. Dean and I are going to do together,” said Loomis as Dean situated the story onto the screen for attendees to follow along. Rather than pick one book, Dean and Loomis choose to read a selection of stories from the “Chick and Fox” series. Dean played the part of Chick while Loomis took the part of Fox. The first story was about the pair's adventure on what was supposed to be a quiet boat ride that turned out a lot louder, thanks to Chick’s many questions. The tale set the tone for the rest of the stories, with a mix of humor and friendship filling them as they solved problems. Together, the two conquered boat rides, walks, and what to do when there’s too much chocolate cake.
Though the usual storytime has been disrupted due to COVID-19, Dean and Loomis are keeping their spirits up and adapting the program to the new Zoom format. Maintaining high energy, audience participation, and engagement is significantly more challenging when your pint-sized audience members are at home. “We’re just like Fox and Chick: we’re just trying to get through,” joked Loomis. As the pandemic continues on, Dean and Loomis are sure to come up with more inventive ways to keep storytime intriguing - and to give Walpole children a taste of the library, even from afar.