Not everyone gets to be read mythical stories from West Africa in the comfort and seclusion of a castle.
But, then again, not everyone is under three feet tall.
Throughout Black History Month, Malvern Library is hosting a weekly children’s story-time every Saturday from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Although the program was interrupted in it’s second week by a visit from TVO’s Gisele, a children’s entertainer, last Saturday, stories like Anansi and the Magic Stick and Monkey’s Clever Tale were shared with the kids.
“Now you guys have to help me, help Anansi,” says children’s librarian Joanna Liebgott-Morrison, to the 10 children sitting on star-shaped stools or sprawled on the floor.
Parents, listening along with the kids, tuck themselves into different corners of the story castle, as assurance for children who glance tentatively back to check on their whereabouts.
“Hocus pocus magic stick, sweep this dust up quick, quick, quick!” the children say along with Liebgott-Morrison.
One avid audience member throws out a guess at the ending, but Liebgott-Morrison persuades him to wait and see how the story plays out.
Liebgott-Morrison says she and head children’s librarian Linda Kennedy work together to decide the reading materials for Black History Month.
“Personally I like reading folk tales and trickster tales. They’re fun and they get kids involved. There are so many variations, with Anansi for example, where he changes from a spider to a man. There’s so much you can do,” she says, referring to the famous figure of West Indian storytelling.
Kennedy, who has worked at the Malvern library since the mid-1990s says the program is promoted through the library’s website, as well as bookmarks and flyers.
But it is also through schools that children discover this program.
“We have a good relationship with the local schools,” Kennedy says. “But we don’t just stick with covering black history in this month. We have a large South Asian and West Indian population and we want the programs to be relevant to everyone. We know the needs of our community.”
Including the immediate needs of the audience, who are getting a little restless towards the halfway mark of the program.
After calling an intermission, Liebgott-Morrison hands out plastic “Anansi” spiders for the children to use while she readies a CD player. A man begins to sing about a spider crawling on his knee, his tummy and various other body parts.
“I like this song because it reminds me of Anansi,” says Liebgott-Morrison as the children giggle and sing along.
“We want to bring in people whose culture it is, whose heritage it is,” says Liebgott-Morrison after the session is over. “We had Donald Carr come in last week and he does the Anansi stories like nobody’s business.”
Referring to the Jamaican storyteller, writer and actor, among other things, Kennedy adds that over 100 kids attended the event.
At the end of the program, kids linger at the back of the story castle, flipping through the books Liebgott-Morrison has laid out, available for borrowing.
“I just like the reactions,” she says, referring to the enjoyment she gets from reading to kids.
Kennedy, who rotates weeks with Liebgott-Morrison, expresses much the same opinion. “I love when I can grab a child and suddenly it’s magic to them.”