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Library storyteller engages children

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Linda Bunch, left, interacts with Miriam Lang, 4, right, and Cal Taylor, 4, while reading 'Monsters Love Colors' by Mike Austin during preschool story time on Tuesday at Braswell Memorial Library.

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BY JENNY WHITE
Telegram Correspondent

Monday, November 13, 2017

Most days, Braswell Memorial Library is a quiet, tranquil place during the mornings.

But one day a week, excitement stirs and a buzz comes from the youth services area, inside the impressive Twin Counties landmark on the corner of Grace, Franklin, Peachtree streets and Falls Road.

At about 11 a.m. on any given Tuesday, parents and a motley crew of mostly pre-schoolers file into one exceptionally colorful corner of the library. There are murals on the wall, a giant Rocky the Reading Rabbit that receives a ritual-like hug from the kids as they enter and rows of colorful books that spectacularly beckon to library patrons who favor Velcro on their shoes and dinosaurs on their hoodies.

While hands are tightly held from the front doors and through the wide hallway leading to the children’s section, once inside the colorful walls of the area designed for children, most kids can’t be held back any longer. While a few children shyly hang back observing the restrained chaos, most parents and nanas are desperately putting their fingers to their lips while shushing or saying some version of “Don’t run,” and “Be quiet!”

But the kids’ excitement and enthusiasm can‘t be contained.

It is Storytime.

When the kids settle down and there is a slight lull in the jabbering and wiggling, the star of the show enters the Storytime room.

Linda Bunch settles into her chair and the magic begins.

Linda Bunch, Braswell Library’s Storytime lead reader since 2009, says that nothing compares to the love, affection, smiles and laughter she gets to witness on Tuesday mornings as the Storytime reader.

“It brings me such joy to watch the children grow and learn during the year. I develop a real bond with the children and their caregivers,” Bunch said.

Typically, Bunch will introduce the Book of the Hour to the kids, show them a puppet or an illustrative toy she’ll be using to help tell the story, tell them all to be very quiet and she begins her 20 minutes of engaging their imagination and their hearts and broadening their world.

Bunch says she loves many classic children’s books, but she is always finding new and interesting books to incorporate into the Storytime rotation as she shelves books in the youth services section.

As much as the children love Bunch’s Storytime, adults are grateful for it, too.

Bunch doesn’t just read a book, said Joanne Carr, a grandmother of a faithful Storytime audience member.

“She brings the story to life,” Carr said.

Carr brought her granddaughter to Storytime until she recently started kindergarten and said Bunch and the Storytime program provide young children with a love of books and reading that will serve them their entire life.

“Linda is so gifted at telling and reading these stories to the children. She becomes the characters, and it’s almost like the children are watching it happen on a television or movie screen,” Carr said. “She has the voices and puppets and toys to help tell the story, all these things that really keep them interested — and still.”

Carr said the interactions Bunch offers throughout the story drives home the lesson of the story and engages the children in a way a television or an iPad can’t.

“Linda will ask the children questions about the story or ask them to do things, like ‘roar like a lion.’ These things really engage the children and teach them so much more than they can get out of a computer app,” Carrr said.

Bunch says she tries to share her love for the story she’s reading and her passion for whatever the lesson is.

“Reading is one of the most powerful ways to boost a child’s brain power,” she said. “The simple and enjoyable act of sharing books helps children learn pre-reading skills such as understanding the letter sounds, developing a bigger vocabulary and building background knowledge – all important skills that help prepare for learning to read and enter kindergarten.”

Bunch served as director of Enfield Library for 20 years before joining the Braswell staff in 2001 and understands the impact a library can have on a community. Bunch is proud that Braswell Library also provides outreach Storytime programs, which are an important part of the library’s services to the community.

“We go out into the community and offer Storytimes in local schools, day cares, organizations and festivals that reach people that may not be able to come to the library, our underserved residents or people with special needs in our community,” Bunch said. “This next week, we’ll be taking Storytime for older children out into the schools with North Carolina author Willa Brigham and having a special Storytime at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the library’s Warner Room, featuring Willa and her newest book.”

Jennifer Stearns, manager of Youth Services and coordinator of Raising a Reader at Braswell Memorial Library, said Bunch is an integral part of the library’s core mission of encouraging literacy in the community.

“Linda is an outstanding story teller. She has helped to encourage early childhood literacy in children and their parents for many years,” Stearns said.

Stearns added that Linda’s contribution isn’t just valuable as a library service. “I believe that through Linda’s story time topics and modeling of the stories, parents can pick up tips to use with their child. Research has shown that the more children are exposed to books, the more prepared they will be for school,” she said.

Bunch said she loves to run into former Storytime participants and their caregivers and hear how much they remember their experiences at Storytime.

“To hear someone talk about how much sharing these stories and books meant to them makes me so thankful for the time I’ve had working in libraries and doing Storytime all these years,” Bunch said. “To be part of opening up a child’s world with a book is a gift to me and something I’m grateful to be a part of.”

Children ages 3 to school age are invited to come to Storytime with Bunch at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays. For more information, call the library at 442-1951.

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