This past Wednesday, on September 25th, I had the pleasure of performing at a special evening event for young families at the Saratoga Public Library in Silicon Valley. Billed as “Kindergarten V.I.P.,” it began at 7:00, relatively late, to allow busy parents to first come home from work. Librarian Peggy Baker who masterminded the evening certainly treated the children as V.I.P.s.
After the daytime patrons left for the day, the library stayed open for pre-registered families only (around 45 of them). Children were treated to carrots, water, and slices of cheese pizza (the ONLY variety of pizza most every child will eat). They then followed colorful mouse drawings taped to the floor to arrive in the sizable community room for lectures. The children took the space on the floor, their grown-ups occupied the seats. Usually, I encourage children and parents to sit together to underscore the importance of sharing stories together, but with 120+ people on hand there simply weren’t enough chairs in the room.
Presenting to K and pre-K audiences implicitly gives performers license to act out stories with extra verve and animation. This evening was no different. Kiki the monkey puppet also got into the act, eliciting hearty guffaws as she spoke English and Spanish to children mostly of Chinese and Indian descent.
After the storytelling portion of the evening, library staff lead the children in a craft activity, showing everyone how to create Jazz Flies and Jazz Fly spoons. Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to address reading and early literacy customs with their highly motivated (and multilingual) moms and dads. “How many of you work in the high tech industry?” I asked. Many smiled sheepishly and raised their hands. “How many of you are engineers?” Still many hands: I figured these were some of the people who power Google, Yahoo, PayPal and Apple. “My son just started college and will study electrical engineering. I wish he could meet you!” I knew this would be an attentive bunch, highly devoted to the success of their children, eager to soak up reading statistics and practical tips. After 30 minutes of back and forth, I felt as though I had made scores of new good friends. Book signing followed, then between autographs, the head librarian Gayathri Kanth leaned in with a question: “Now can you do this at the Cupertino branch?” Count me in!