Andrew’s Last Storytime

I felt like I was witnessing the end of an era (or at least a phase of Kelly’s life) when her favorite storytime presenter, Andrew, announced he would be moving on to other things.

In perspective, the timing was right: we’ve been going to see him almost every week for over 3 years, from when this desperate mother took the book-loving but not-yet-literate Kelly to Borders to now, when Kelly reads and crafts on her own, and will be in a classroom next year at the times pre-school storytimes usually take place.

In March of 2007, I was at wit’s end. The then-3-year-old Kelly had a full-on book obsession. She couldn’t read herself, so yours truly did the reading, so much so that I can still recite portions of Dr. Seuss books by heart. Peter suggested I get a break by finding someone else would to do the reading, like, say, at a storytime.

And so in short time, I became a connoisseur of the storytimes of Silicon Valley. On Mondays, we went to the Sunnyvale Library; on Tuesdays, we could go to the storytime at Barnes & Noble, followed by a later storytime at the Almaden Branch library. Friday mornings were reserved for Miss Mary at the Cambrian Library.

The best of all was Andrew’s storytime at Borders. I remember the first storytime, when he read Rechenka and sent the children hunting after hidden eggs. Another week, after reading Not A Box, he turned a box into a robot costume.

We were introduced to the icons of contemporary children’s literature, like Fancy Nancy, Junie B. Jones, Charlie and Lola, Pigeon,and Fly Guy. Andrew encouraged the children to recognize colors, count, exercise, appreciate America, celebrate holidays, learn Spanish, meet his English grandmother, and say thank you and please. Kelly made cards for mother’s and father’s day; created paper “bauble” bracelets; sang Jingle Bells; made pumpkin faces and set them on posts; looked for leprechaun “gold”–whatever the story, Andrew had an activity for it, and then a treat from the cafe for a final quiet time to end the day’s adventure.

In the meantime, our life evolved as well. At first, I would take Kelly to the storytime with her riding on the back of my bike; and afterwards, I’d dash out on the same bike to pick up Neil at his school. When Neil finished elementary school, I started homeschooling him and expected Kelly would go to public school kindergarten, but my hopes were dashed by seeing the horrifying classroom. Kelly was heartbroken at being taken out of school, and storytimes like Andrew’s were one of the few things that could make up for it. We made friends with other regular Andrew fans, and invited our friends to come. And we weren’t the only ones doing this–as a result by early 2009, up to 50 young children would show up each week.

But it wasn’t going to go on like that forever, not even then. This year, many of Andrew’s regulars started school, either kindergarten or first grade. Kelly did, too, as a result of a contract I was working full time last fall–but I made sure to opt for a part-time school schedule, so Kelly could continue to see Andrew. But though Kelly doesn’t want to admit it, she’s getting too old for picture book storytime herself. She can read on her own now, and ploughed through all the Junie B. Jones books, Flat Stanley, and Captain Underpants on her own. She makes cards and crafts and pictures all by herself.

Andrew is growing up, too: he has to work on finishing his college degree, which is not, surprisingly, in early childhood education. So the time was right, but he will remain a part of  Kelly’s childhood memories forever.

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