Reading bedtime stories to pajama-clad children is not typically part of a mayor’s job description. But that is just what Mayor John DeStefano Jr. did at the Stetson library Sunday evening as he read a bedtime story to about 20 local children.
The mayor was participating in the second “Read Aloud” program at the library, the brainchild of librarian Kim Sweeney and her 7-year-old daughter Melisse, a first-grader. The Sunday evening event included story readings by DeStefano and several librarians, as well as free milk and cookies.
DeStefano, who did not wear pajamas because “a mayor never sleeps,” read “It Takes a Village,” a story about a girl who loses her brother while babysitting and is thankful when the other villagers return him safely.
The mayor said he wanted to participate in the program to lend his support to the libraries and praised the librarians for their work.
“The libraries have done a wonderful job becoming centers of community,” he said.
The first story of the evening was “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats, a tale of a boy who learns to whistle for his pet dachshund. At the end of the story, the children whistled and the branch manager brought out her grand-dachshund. Slight chaos ensued when the dog ran around the library and one boy, Alan Robinson, chased after it.
“How’d they get a real dog in the library?” Melisse asked.
On a number of occasions, Robinson, who came to the event in blue plaid pajamas, stole the show.
As the children sang a song about people standing together to help one another, he shouted, “Stand up, mommy!” The adults in the room broke out in laughter.
As librarian Sally Brown, who wore a DeStefano campaign shirt and red slippers, read “The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything,” Robinson asked if he could keep the book, which belonged to Brown. She gave it to him.
Some of the children received books from the library in a more traditional manner: they checked them out.
“That’s the point — to get people to use the library,” said Susan Holahan, a family literacy coordinator.
In addition, the children received books from the “Clifford the Big Red Dog” series, courtesy of Fleet Bank.
Sweeney said that one of the biggest challenges in putting on the “Read Aloud” was publicizing it. She said the library used flyers, phone calls and advertisements in local newspapers and is planning another event after the winter.
Ten-year-old Ishmael Austin said he would like to attend another “Read Aloud,” which was the first such event he had ever attended.
“It was OK,” he said.
Melisse added that the program is important because it encourages children to learn to read. Melisse, who wore red teddy bear pajamas with feet, already knows how to read.
“I can read 200 books,” she said. “I’m just kidding. I can read some.”