Turning a Pandemic Page, In-Person Story Time Returns

First published in the Sept. 24 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Once upon a time, a scary virus banned library story time for little children everywhere.
That chapter seems to have closed for now, however, with the South Pasadena Public Library ushering back the decades-long tradition of in-person storytelling this week. Library Park was filled with families of children ages 3-5 for the preschool story time, gleeful chatter and wiggling youngsters collecting on the lawn’s expanse.
Although the library hosted 64 online story times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person activity brought a joy and energy that just couldn’t be replicated with the virtual stories, parents noted.

Photos by Natalie Miranda / The Review Children’s librarian Cindy Finder holding the two books for story time last Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Jessika Fairbanks brought her 3-year-old daughter Dahlia to the reading event, which has become a beloved activity she has shared with her child since she was 1.
“It was nice to be back,” Fairbanks said. “We remember going inside and doing story times, so when I saw on Instagram that the library was bringing it back, I said, ‘Let’s go!’ I even made sure I put it on the calendar.”
She said she wants to make memories at the library with her daughter so that she can imbue the same enjoyment she recalls having with libraries as a child.
“I always want to foster a love of reading with my daughter,” Fairbanks said. “Libraries were important to me growing up, so I want to pass that on to her.”
Children’s librarian Cindy Finder led the story time expertly with singing, dancing and a puppet performance in between reading “Hooray for You! A Celebration of ‘You-ness’” and “All of Us.”
“I love seeing the kids participate and get up and move with me,” Finder said. “Their excitement and exuberance is contagious, and that’s really why I do it.”
Library Director Cathy Billings said story time is not only an educational tool, but a pastime to socialize and engage children.
“People sometimes think we’re just reading books to kids, but it’s more about modeling behavior and all of the different movement and songs that are part of story time that create an early literacy environment.”
Hyejung Kim introduced her 3-year-old son Isaac to his first-ever story time at the library, with the goal of getting him acclimated with new people and surroundings.
“His first language is Korean, so my hope is that by being here, he will become more comfortable interacting with the community,” Kim said.
Children’s librarian Judy Neeb said literacy starts at age 0.
“As soon as they’re born, they are exploring the world and we want our community to know storytelling is an important part of education,” Neeb said. “There’s also a community aspect of story times, where the experience of sharing these stories together is just as beneficial.”
To conclude the festivities, children were able to check out books and sign up for new library cards.

Cindy Finder introduces a puppet to the preschool story time attendees.
Isaac and his mother Hyejung Kim visited preschool story time.
Library Director Cathy Billings holds children’s books at story time.

South Pasadena Library Story Schedules

• Preschool story time (ages 3-5) — Tuesdays, 10:30-11:00 a.m.
• Toddler story time (ages 1-3) — Thursdays, 10:30-10:50 a.m.
• Family story time (all ages) — Saturday, 10:30-11:00 a.m.

The South Pasadena Public Library is operating in compliance with the current Los Angeles County Department of Public Health order. Masks are required for everyone age 2 and older.
For more information about other upcoming free library children’s programs, visit southpasadenaca.gov/children or call children’s services at (626) 403-7358. The library is open Monday-Thursday from 1-7 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.