Story time not just for kids anymore

New library program offers lunchtime readings to adults

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
photoJericho Knight, senior library assistant at Vancouver Community Library, chose stories of the working world for Wednesday’s Lunch Pail Tales.

(/The Columbian)

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If you go

What: “Lunch Pail Tales: A Story Time for Grown-ups.”

When: First and third Wednesdays of the month, 12:05-12:55 p.m.

Where: Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., fourth-floor Klickitat Room.

On the Web:

Did Elsie break free from the blue-nosed busybodies and find happiness? Find out by reading the public-domain story “Elsie in New York.”

Poor little Elsie couldn’t buy a break, in part because her father left her only $2.50.

Furthermore, young Elsie did not have a job — a condition she might have rectified if a series of butt-in guardians of public morality hadn’t kept saving her from the evils of employment.

O. Henry penned the story, “Elsie in New York,” more than a century ago. When Jericho Knight gave it a fresh reading Wednesday afternoon, Kathy Gregory found herself reliving one of her childhood joys.

Gregory was among a dozen or so people who gathered in the Vancouver Community Library for a fledgling story time for grown-ups.

“I love the idea of being read to,” said Gregory, a downtown resident who bundled up and walked to the library for the event.

“When I was a fifth-grader, our teacher read us things like ‘Boxcar Children.’ I loved that,” Gregory said. “How long has it been since somebody read to me?”

And that’s the point of the program, dubbed

“Lunch Pail Tales.” Why should have kids have all the story-time fun?

“Sometimes adults think stories are just for kids,” said Knight, a senior library assistant. “Short stories are so powerful; there are always messages, always things grown-ups can use.”

The program, which began Jan. 4 with stories of new beginnings, is a happy confluence of Knight’s own background and an up-and-coming idea in the library field.

“It was serendipitous,” said Knight, who came to Vancouver in June from Oregon Episcopal School in Beaverton.

“I did readings there, for middle school and high school students and teachers,” Knight said. “When I came here, I knew I wanted to do some sort of storytelling program.

“A colleague had just read about the Seattle library’s program,” Knight continued. “When she asked if I’d like to try it, I said, ‘Absolutely!’”

Seattle’s adult story time program is in its seventh year. David Wright, readers’ advisory librarian for Seattle, traced its roots to the success of kids’ programs.

“You know, we’ve always had these wonderful story times for children, and I just thought it seemed kind of arbitrary that on we wouldn’t do that for adults, too,” Wright said. “Among all the other things we are and do, libraries are temples of story, and finding ways to foster that in our communities is right at the heart of what we do.

“A book group is one way of doing that — and author events, and reading programs — but a story time is perhaps the most essential way of all. It is something we humans have been doing for thousands of years,” Wright said.

Even some of the newest ways of sharing information are just updated versions of people gathered around a campfire, lost in a story.

“People have a very basic need for a story, and with the popularity of audio books, more and more of us are alive to the pleasures of being read to,” Wright said. “This is even more fun in person.”

Even if you’re not in the target audience.

After Knight’s first lunch pail session on Jan. 4, a few people told him that they occasionally would visit the library’s children’s story times because they enjoyed listening to them.

Of course, the audience brings something to the event as well, both readers noted.

“You want them to gasp and giggle at the at right moments, and they did,” Knight said.

“Probably my favorite part of our story times, which feature a lot of fairly suspenseful, Twilight Zone-y writing, is that moment when you hear the audience gasp or sigh at some collective realization,” Wright said. “Of course, laughter is nice, too.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.