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Time for storytime with Carolyn Potter

Tall tales of tails and things at the Fairfax Library.

Arriving with their mothers and grandmothers, children between the ages of 3 and 6 eagerly plop down on the half-circle of crayon colored cushions arranged in front of a captain's chair.   

Children's Services Librarian Carolyn Potter, or Mrs. Potter as she is called, is about to read several books about chickens. This sets the stage for clucking sound effects and the flapping of arms to replicate chicken wings. Potter even starts out with a barnyard song so the tots can trill appropriate animal noises.

The books include: Goodnight Lulu, Mrs. Chicken and The Hungry Crocodile, Chicken Cheeks (which teaches various ways to refer to our bottoms), and The Perfect Nest. 

Potter is animated and interactive with the kids, giving them a chance to shout out what they think might be coming on the next page, or name the animal to which a particular tail might belong.     

As a kid, Carolyn Potter says she didn't do very well in oral expression. Obviously more comfortable with it now, Potter has been the children's librarian in Fairfax for 24 years. Starting in 1986, this has been her only professional job since she studied Library Sciences at UC Berkeley.

A long way from being a shy kid, she now reads to kids ages 3 and up on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11-11:30 a.m. 

While home in the summers from College of Idaho, Potter began what later became her career as a shelver -- she put away books at the San Rafael Public Library -- before moving up to the check-out desk. Now at the Fairfax Library, a branch of the Marin County Free Library, Potter also works at the adult reference desk and on the selection of new materials.  

Though her mother, a teacher, passed away before Potter entered kindergarten, one of her oldest memories is of her mom taking her to a library. The middle child in the family, Potter remembers her artist father, who worked as an art director in several advertising agencies, reading out loud during their own storytime. The favorite household books were Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding and  The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling.

Despite the pedigree, Potter says she was a reluctant reader and didn't get turned on to books until Terra Linda High School when she suddenly discovered John Steinbeck. She devoured all his titles and went on to major in English.  

Along with her passion for reading, Potter, who has played the flute since the fifth grade, has a love of music. She is a member of The Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Non-Marching Band, affecionately known as The Sewer Band.  Their outfits are white lab coats and the pocket crest is a crossed plumber's helper and mop.

For storytime at the Fairfax Library, Potter plans her themes far in advance since many of the good or new books are often checked out. Sometimes, especially when St. Rita's classes cross the street with their teachers, Potter has as many as 30 children for storytime.   

Today's theme was chickens and even break stayed on the farm. After two tales, Potter asked the kids to stand up and stretch to the ceiling, touch the floor, scrunch themselves into a ball shape as though they were inside an egg, then break out of the egg shell using their "beaks."

A children's librarian works with kids through age 12, so Potter designs events for all children's ages with The Friends of the Library. The Friends sponsor and provide funds for story tellers, puppet shows, craft programs, and more. Children are also encouraged to join the summer reading club, Make a Splash at your Library, a national program for which kids receive a series of prizes if they read for 20 minutes or more per day. 

Marin Humane Society provides Potter with dogs called Share Dogs to aid children who have trouble reading out loud in school.

Yes, kids read books to dogs.

Because dogs are non-judgemental, not to mention an easy audience, children often become better readers. Potter particularly enjoys seeing kids hold the books up so the dogs can look at the pictures. (And who wouldn't enjoy that!)

Storytime, of course, encourages parents to read to their children, too. Potter is pleased that after her sessions many parents leave the library with an armful of children's books. The best part of reading to a child is the together time the experience gives both parent and child, said Potter.

Fairfax Library

2097 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

(415) 453-8151; http://co.marin.ca.us/library

Storytime: Tues. & Sat. 11-11:30 a.m.

Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara September 28, 2010 at 12:04 AM
I wish they had grown-up storytime.

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