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Library hosts outdoor ‘Fresh Air Friday’

Miss Kristy and Lizzy McGovern read 'The Little Red Hen' before singing the peanut butter and jelly song.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

One of the things people have discovered during the eight months of COVID-19-related lockdowns is that certain groups transition well to working, socializing and learning over the internet, and certain groups don’t. So, although many of the Westwood Library’s online programs (including two Zoom-hosted storytimes for young children) are going great, the children’s librarians wanted a live event for the youngest kids who might not respond as well to screen-based events.

To remedy this situation, the Westwood Library has been holding “Fresh Air Fridays,” a program of songs, stories and rhymes on the lawn just outside the children’s section of the building. Limited to just ten people, the events are to be held until December - although they are essentially full, with a waiting list on call in case anyone can’t make it.  

“We just started two weeks ago,” Miss Kristy explained. “We were rained out last week, but the week before was our first week. Right now, this is the (outdoor)-only program that we’re doing, and we’re planning on this being a six-week session, so it will stop in December.”

Held outdoors, the event was socially distanced and limited in number to stay safe.

To start the day this Friday morning, Miss Kristy and Lizzy McGovern sang “Hello Friends,” which they said was the way they begin every meeting. Next, to work on colors, they placed a bunch of colored pieces of felt paper on the board next to them, and hid a mouse under one. The kids were tasked with finding the mouse by naming the color they’d like peeled off the board, and seeing if the mouse was underneath it.

Up next, the group sang a modified version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” called “If You’re Ready for a Story.” While the classic lines, like “clap your hands” were used, there was also the hilarious addition of “If you’re happy and you know it, raise the roof,” which saw kids born twenty years after the New York Times first reported on the "hip" new gesture bringing it back in a major way.

The story of the day was "The Big Red Hen," after which Miss Kristy asked the kids: "what's something you could make with bread?" After the kids threw out a couple answers including “sandwiches,” she steered the conversation to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which segued into the group singing “Peanut, peanut butter… and jelly.” The transition made perfect sense.

But just after, the duo attempted another segue by asking the kids: "what's something you might drink with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" Milk seemed the most obvious answer, but the duo insisted they like to drink tea with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so that everyone would next sing “I’m a Little Teapot” with them. The transition was a bit more of a stretch, especially given that not long after, the group ended up singing a song about milkshakes.

The kids, including these two, who brought their own lawn chairs, were given shakers for a musical portion of the event.

Nonetheless, once the sillies had been shake, shaken out; everyone had learned about the various classic turkey poems of Thanksgiving; shakers were handed out for another song; and everyone had read “Bear Says Thanks,” the group broke until next week.

While the kids were engaged throughout, the appeal of being outside with cars, bugs and all other sorts of other outdoor distractions would seem to present a problem for the librarians. But Miss Kristy said it’s not much of an issue, and that the stuff they do outside was pretty much the same as what they would be doing inside.

“I feel like it’s about the same as doing it inside. The more you sing and dance, the more you’re able to keep them engaged.”

Felt turkey feathers were used to teach the kids about colors.

While both Miss Kristy and Lizzy McGovern were happy to get to see their old friends in person after so long, they felt badly about the number of families they have had to turn away.

“We love seeing them and it’s so nice - we want to see everyone again, but we do have a strict number of people.”

Hopefully the coronavirus vaccines come soon, and the small children can all gather together to once again raise the roof, under the roof of the Westwood Library.

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