Through the ages, the art of storytelling has evolved from cave drawings to spoken word to published tomes. And more and more these days, the timeless tradition of open air storytelling sessions is enjoying a resurgence.
Reviving the tradition in Hernando County, Justin King, Youth Services Librarian at Hernando County Public Library System, is bringing his Storytime to the Park program (complete with take home crafts) each Tuesday in January and February to the Brooksville Bandshell at Hernando Park and outdoors at The Lake House, 1202 Kenlake Dr., Spring Hill.
Starting Tuesday, January 5th, King will alternate his storytelling sessions between The Lake House and Hernando Park Bandshell. The Lake House dates will run 1/5, 1/19, 2/2, 2/16; the Hernando Park Bandshell dates will run 1/12, 1/26, 2/9, and 2/23. Each program will consist of stories and songs, with every child receiving a take home craft bag and a sticker.
"We haven't done any in-person programming for children since the 1st week of March 2020. We've offered storytime videos and craft kits they could pick up at the branch but nothing in-person," said King. "We've had requests for the return of storytimes, and we've definitely missed seeing the kids and families so we wanted to offer a program that they could attend that could be done in a safe and distanced location. It was also a great opportunity for us to team up with the Parks department who is letting us use the space for this program."
Every program will feature a theme, King explains. "The first theme will be "Moose" and we're going to read ‘If You Give a Moose a Muffin’ by Laura Numeroff, among other moose themed stories," he said. "At the conclusion of the program, each child will receive a bag that will contain a bagged craft related to the theme that they can do at home. We'll also be using many of the songs and rhymes that the children enjoy from our previous in-person storytimes."
This event is free to attend but offers limited registration, and family participation is strongly encouraged. "Registration is required due to limited space because of distancing. We recommend just families to register due to our space limitations," said King. "But if groups from churches, daycares, and schools want a storytime, they can contact the library and we will try to work it out where we can visit them and give them a storytime."
Registration will open up two weeks ahead of each scheduled date. Each group should bring their own blankets for seating, and each group will be asked to socially distance from others.
"With what we know about the virus right now, open air programs definitely provide a safer alternative to providing programs indoors. We will still practice distancing though (having each group seated 6 ft. from each other) to help provide a safe environment," said King. "And for families that may not be ready for in-person programming yet, we will still offer new weekly storytime videos through our website and Facebook page."
King encourages families to sign up now for this special session of family storytelling, one enjoyed in the setting of a picturesque park. "Still time and space available to register for the Jan 5th program at the Lake House. Registration closes the morning of the program or when all the spots are taken up," he said. "And registration opens up the morning of Tuesday the 29th for the Jan 12th program at the Bandshell at Hernando Park. Registration opens up 2 weeks before each program and we do offer a waitlist for families once the main list fills up."
King hopes that this activity, and others like it, will foster a love of reading among young guests.
"From doing these programs, we hope that families can have a moment to get out and to enjoy stories and songs in a safe outdoors environment," he said. "And with all my storytime programs, I hope that they foster the love and enjoyment of books and reading in the children that attend while helping to establish and build the learning blocks needed to help prepare them for when they're ready to learn to read."
For more information about Storytime in the Park with Mr. Justin or to register, call the Hernando County Library System at 352-754-4043.