by Sadie Fenton '10 and Charmaine Daniels
Clad in robes and slippers, youngsters from 2 years old to 10 years old crowd around the couches in the student lounge of Alfond Center. Equipped with blankets and teddy bears, the children settle in for the first story of the night, "Slippers Goes to School."
In the fall of 2008, Danielle Johnson '10 and Emily Cole '10 revived a program called Bedtime Stories to promote children's literacy. Once a month, local children come for an hour and a half of reading and crafts in the comfort of their pajamas.
Danielle Johnson ’10 reads “The Magic Pumpkin” and Rachel Davies ’10 shows the pictures at the Bedtime Stories program just before Halloween. The education majors were among members of Student Education Association of Maine who presented the reading and craft program.
September's "Back to School" theme included stories with beloved characters such as Arthur, Franklin, and Amelia Bedelia. Cole explains that children set up a space on the floor or tables and then do a coloring activity until everyone has arrived. "It keeps them entertained until we get things going," Cole says. After a couple of stories, the kids make a craft with beads, glitter, construction paper, and a variety of supplies Johnson and Cole make available. A light snack is also provided.
The one in October themed for Halloween entertained 30 children bedecked in costumes and happy to listen to "Magic Pumpkin," "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything" and "Costume Copycat" read aloud.
When Johnson and Cole heard about a $1,000 grant Target was offering to promote literacy and community involvement, they knew Bedtime Stories fit the bill. "We decided it's at least worth the try," Johnson says of the decision to apply for the grant. "Worst case scenario: We don't get the grant and we'll still have our $10 per month budget." After they learned that they had been awarded the grant, they made plans to buy more craft supplies and a book for each student who comes to campus for the Read Across America event next March.
Trying to convince kids that reading can be fun, the two seniors took on the program to prevent it from becoming a lost gem. "Hopefully, somebody will want to do it next year," states Johnson.
"Popcorn and Food," and "Polar Express" round out the fall season. Next spring's themes include "Multicultural and Folk Tales," "Farms," and "Earth Day and Weather."
"It's always a great time!" says Cole.