By Meghan Curtis
Wednesday, July 7 marked the return of Story Time at the College Park Community Library. Due to the pandemic, the popular event hadn’t been held since March 2020.
Story Time used to be held in the library, which is on the lower level of the College Park Church of the Nazarene. On the event’s first day back, though, children and parents sat outside the church on colorful blankets and tiny chairs under a beaming sun. The event will go back inside when the weather cools again.
Micki Freeny is the reader for Story Time events. Freeny, an experienced storyteller, retired from her position as children’s event coordinator at the D.C. Public Library in 2015. Her dynamic, animated character shines through as she reads children’s books.
Freeny also integrates hands-on techniques to hold young children’s attention, often shaking a toy to the beat of a song. “I love babies because they just soak it up. Even though they don’t participate, if they’re awake, they’re usually very attentive because there’s so much singing,” she said.
Freeny wore a face mask when interacting directly with children, and some participants chose to, too, including Andrew Toy. Toy has two sons – 4-year-old Joseph, and 2-year-old William. Toy has been attending Story Time since Joseph was born.
“It was like a weekly ritual. Every Wednesday morning, we would come,” he said. “So, after a long break, this is our first Story Time in over a year.”
Jackie Kelly is director and co-founder of the College Park Community Library. She opened the library in 2012, with 800 donated books. (The library now has more than ten times that number of books, with 3,000 of them being children’s books.) Kelly began reading to children at the library the year it was founded. She spread the news about the weekly gathering by email and word of mouth, and Story Time was born.
Elaine Stillwell, a former co-director of the library, served as story reader for almost 4 years. Freeny stepped into the role when Stillwell died, in March of 2018. Kelly remembered Stillwell as a “solid rock, and we were good friends.”
The library currently has about 250 members. All library services are free to patrons, who can check out books for three weeks at a time. The library is all about spreading the love of reading.
The library has received two city grants over time. This funding, which totalled $4,000, allowed the library to purchase a desktop computer, a printer and a laptop. Patrons can use the laptop, which is connected to the church’s Wi-Fi.
Kelly anticipates holding many more events in 2022. She hopes to organize a book festival featuring local authors and is eager to welcome police, including a K-9 unit, for a meet-and-greet with residents. And Story Time is back in full swing!
Story Time takes place every Wednesday from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. at the library, located on the lower level of the College Park Church of the Nazarene, 9704 Rhode Island Ave. Library hours are posted on the library’s Facebook page: facebook.com/colparklib.