Emily Henry reads Friday morning story hour for children under two-years old. She says you have to go as fast as you can to keep their attention.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe/Gazette Packet
It is 10:29 a.m. and the floor is crowded with chairs all filled for the Friday morning story hour at Hooray for Books on King Street. The clock ticks down. Patterned pants, a purple headband, bib and pacifier jostle for the best position in front. One little boy rushes to the bathroom before the stories start. A grandfather sits reading “One Cool Friend” to his granddaughter who twirls her blond pigtail as she turns the pages before he has finished them. "Hi Amy," friends greet each other and struggle through the crowd to sit together. Emily Henry is about to begin her weekly half hour story hour for children under two years old. She says, "I read a lot of short books and sing songs because these little guys can't focus very long."
"I look for books that sound good out loud, are bright and visually interesting. And it's good if they make a sound." She weaves her way through the chairs to her large chair upfront. "Hello everybody. Everybody wave hello." Arms wave around in the air. "We have many of the same families and some have friends here so story hour is a social experience, too."
Henry runs through about 10 books in half an hour. "You go a million miles an hour; it's like trying to catch a moving train." She said there are always a percent of the kids running around but "you just keep moving." And the weather makes a difference. "We can't tell you why but the kids just don't act the same." She launches into "can you see your eyes, eyes, eyes. Of course you can." She says books like this are really good for kids who need repetition to learn. She reads about 15 of the books over and over and the kids memorize the words and repeat them with her. And before anyone can become bored, she has them singing, "the itsy bitsy spider goes up the water spout," while they are valiantly trying to make their fingers cross over and move up the imaginary spout. The favorite of the kids is "Hooray for Fish."
"Everybody yawn. Wiggle your nose, shout out loud good morning sun." There is a lot of action. Henry says this bookstore has been here for a long time under a number of different names but the story hour has always been a feature of the store. "This was my bookstore when I was a kid. I've always been a reader." This is Henry's busiest half hour of the week. "But it's pretty cool when regulars move away but come back to visit because they remember the story hour and maybe me."
Henry has been working at the bookstore for four years and doing the Friday morning story hour for almost that long. She said she took it over from the regular story reader who left to become an actor. Henry will leave soon herself to pursue her career as a songwriter, singer and guitar player in Alexandria. "I play locally in coffee shops, wineries, and some local restaurants." She says her first album is scheduled to be out in April or May.