Sunday, June 10, 2012

Storytime at the Farmers' Market

All through the summer, Green Branch will be hosting an open-air reading room at the Saturday farmers' market in Berkeley. The growing children's collection is too massive to display in the reading room, so each week two or three themes are selected. Yesterday's were Strong Girls and Diverse Families; there are always some classics, pre-K board books, tales from around the world, and just-for-fun titles, too.

I spent a lot of time with kids yesterday, both coloring and chatting as well as reading aloud. One visitor was a little girl who first read with her father and then approached me with a book; we discussed Please Don't Eat Me and The Peace Book (by local author Todd Parr, who has also written The Family Book, It's Okay to be Different, and The I Love You Book).

With a couple of active boys who would rather tussle than sit still, I flipped through the Guinness Book of World Records and its shorter blurbs; we exchanged information about animals. He told me about how chimpanzees eat termites by poking long sticks into the termite mounds; turns out that the world's largest termite mounds are 20 feet tall and "look like statues". There must be termites "to the end of the WORLD" in there! It would take a lot of chimpanzees to eat them!

With a larger group, I read All Families Are Special, a story that discusses many types of families. It includes same-sex parents, adopted siblings, blended and step-families, multigenerational families, large and small families, and chosen family of friends and pets. It shows adults and children of several races and talks about how families support each other during good times and bad times -- fodder for conversation during and after! Children will probably want to talk about their own families and how they are similar and different to those in the book.

Although our visitors were split about evenly between girls and boys, in the afternoon we didn't read aloud any selections from the Strong Girls shelf. (I saw several books being shared by parents and caregivers.) That's a recurring theme, as it includes favorites such as Amazing Grace, I Love My Hair, The Paper Bag Princess, and Princess Smartypants. Part of my work in this internship will be to organize our themes (creating new ones as necessary) and develop the collection to support and fulfill them.

If you're local, please drop by! The market's just a block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, and Green Branch is located on the lawn closest to the intersection of Milvia and Center Streets. The market runs from 10-3, and that's when the reading room is scheduled, although we've noticed that attendance drops off after 1:00 (naptime?) so we may pack up earlier if it's very slow. If you're not able to attend, why not suggest a theme or check out our wishlist on Amazon for ideas?

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