Read me a story

"Learn and listen at storytimeThe Freeland, Clinton, and Langley public libraries hold storytime reading hours for preschool children every week.Following a break for the holidays, Storytime will resume at Langley and Freeland libraries on Jan. 23, and at Clinton in March. Check with each library for dates and times: Freeland Library, 331-7323; Langley, 221-4383; and Clinton, 341-4280.Hannah McConnaghay and Lillie Walsh make like the grownups and share a book of their own.Matt Johnson/staff photosIt was sheep thrills for preschoolers during a recent reading hour at the Freeland Library.Some of the eight children who had come to hear the day's story sat on the floor of the library's community room, while others fidgeted in adult-sized chairs. Some sat in their mothers' laps, while a few more wandered to the front of the room to touch books set out there for them. They were waiting for storytime to begin. Taking a cue from a dog puppet that spoke from its cozy home in a little box, storyteller and puppeteer Debby Colfer was hardly sheepish as she plunged the children into the day's theme by reading an updated version of Mary Had a Little Lamb. In the book, Mary's lamb decides to set out on its own around the barnyard. Eventually, after being toppled by a horse and muddied by a pig, the lamb's fleece is no longer white as snow, and Mary has to wash her little lamb at the end of the day. To the delight of the children, Colfer tucked the lamb into a small human bed inside the house where it could go to sleep. That plot twist brought smiles to the children's faces, especially those who were familiar with the Mary Had a Little Lamb nursery rhyme.Expanding the children's literary horizons is what Preschool Storytime is all about. The weekly program, offered at the Freeland, Clinton and Langley libraries, has a loyal following of young children and parents who like books. It is a following Colfer hopes to expand.It's a fairly small group this year, she said of the children and parents who barely filled a quarter of the community room seats. It was packed last year.Colfer said the storytelling hour is great for the kids in many ways. First, it is something fun for them to do at an age when school does not fill their time. It is also educational, both in the standard way and in a microbiological way. The children who come to the storytime are in the midst of the greatest amount of brain growth of their lives, Colfer said. Reading to them helps their 100 billion brain cells make more than one quadrillion synaptic connections, connections that do the work of thinking.During the day's second story, Charlie Needs a Cloak, Colfer pushed the educational portion of the storytime program and asked a vocabulary question.Does anyone know what a shepherd is? Colfer asked.From two seats away came a definite answer from a little red-haired girl named Charlie Marshall.A dog, Marshall said.It wasn't quite the answer Colfer was looking for, but it did show that Marshall had been listening.The children also learn to mimic studious behavior while Colfer reads. During the sheep thrills session, Hannah McConnaughey opened a book and pretended to read to Lillie Walsh. But that lasted only until Colfer brought out puppet sheep and a puppet troll for a retelling of The Billy Goat's Gruff. That got everyone's attention, including that of Haley McConnaughey, Hannah's infant sister.Colfer read the children more sheep-themed books, including Charlie Needs A Cloak, Little Bo Peep, and Sheep Out to Eat. After that, the children, with the help of their parents, sat down for crafts time. They made fuzzy sheep by gluing cotton balls in the shape of a sheep to construction paper.At the end of the hour-long storytime, many of the children left with their own sheep book selections, to the delight of storyteller Colfer. It was so exciting, you might say it gave her the woolies. "

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