Story hour at River City Books

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Kathy Wartinbee had a captive audience during her Stories for Kids hour Saturday at River City Books -- at least while the listener's dad was holding on to him.

The rest of the time 1-year-old Finn Carnahan, Kathy's sole audience member for the day, was more interested in knocking over a nearby book display, practicing his newly acquired "squinting face," as his mom called it, and getting his hands on the "big kids" books in the case across the aisle from him.

But that's all part of the fun in reading to children.

"I just like reading to kids, seeing their responses and passing on my interest in reading," Wartinbee said. "And it's never too soon to start. You have to start to learn to like to read sometime, and I guess 1 is a good time."

Finn is the son of Mara and Patrick Carnahan of Anchorage, and is the grandson of Peggy Mullen, the owner of River City Books.

Usually Stories for Kids draws a bigger crowd than the store owner's visiting grandson, but participation tends to wane as summer approaches and kids get involved in other activities.

The Stories for Kids program began three years ago, when River City Books first opened. Mullen recruited retired teachers and librarians to do a children's story time Saturday afternoons during the winter.

"I think that's part of what a book store should do," Mullen said. "Kids who love books will hopefully become adults who love to read."

The program happens every Saturday at 11:15 a.m. from October to the end of April. Tom Anderson, Connie Tarbox, Karri Mohn, Lisa Kent and Wartinbee have been recruited as the readers, although Wartinbee didn't need to be recruited

"When I heard a book store was coming, I called and wanted to do this," she said.

Wartinbee is certainly not new to reading to children. She worked as an elementary school librarian for 28 years in Pennsylvania. She retired in 1997 and she and her husband, David, moved to Soldotna.

She gears her reading to her audience, picking books with textures for Finn to sample, animal sounds he could listen to and pictures he would find interesting. Wartinbee's expressive voice, selection of reading material and experience with kids captured Finn's attention for a good half hour Saturday, which is no small feat with a 1-year-old. Stories for Kids usually draws a few children under the age of 7.

"We usually have about three or four kids for sure," Mullen said. "It winds up being a lot of little, tiny kids coming up and sitting on mom's lap. It dies down when they're almost 6 or 7, when they are reading on their own."

River City Books has an "open book" policy when it comes to reading to kids. Mullen encourages any adult to come in and read whenever they want to.

"Any adult who wants to come in and read to a child is welcome to come in and sit on our step if they want to," she said.

Stories for Kids will continue this weekend and end April 27. It will begin again in October.

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