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Kids join Hugh Hanley’s circle of friends

By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Staff

Young children accompanied by caregivers made a trip to Needham Free Public Library on a sunny Thursday morning, August 18. The 10 a.m. wake-up call was well worth it, as they welcomed special guest Hugh Hanley for a storytime and songs.

Hanley, a former educator, has a great appreciation for music and utilizes a nurturing, creative approach when it comes to children. Kids in attendance sat on the ground in a circle, acting as Hanley’s circle of friends. The simplicity and effectiveness of Hanley’s songs and storytelling were on full display; soon, the little ones’ laughter filled the room. His childlike improvisation works perfectly, as his young audience devours his wacky words. His musical skills on banjo are also impressive.

Audience participation was the name of the game for Thursday’s session. Using simple rhythms, like clapping out “Pat a Cake” and “Alligator Pie,” Hanley got children to focus and contribute to silly lyrics.

The kids frequently chimed in, as they did when they helped Hanley with his train song — they made whistle noises and kept the train running with other onomatopoeic notes.

During a rain song, kids jumped up and down in puddles, mimicking putting on raincoats and umbrellas.

Hanley even turned Eric Carle’s famous “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” into an enrichment song, using each simple color and animal as a tool for engaging imagination in the topic.

“There are great benefits for children who engage on hands-on active music play,” Hanley explained. “We use fingerplays to focus children. These are oftentimes the first steps children take in their journey towards literacy.”

For more storytime with Hugh, visit

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