Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Q&A with Eve Parker, AKA Popular Avondale Library Storyteller Ms. Eve

Storyteller Ms. Eve at the Southside Branch Library

Eve Parker was in a zone, leading about two dozen kids in a dance to the Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy,” then stopping the music and coaxing the children to hug their neighbor.

It was a fitting scene as a few minutes earlier Parker had been reading a book called Hug, and used the story to teach the children how to spell the word "hug."  The storytime program held September 7 at Southside Branch Library is among many led throughout the year by Parker aka Ms. Eve, Avondale Regional Branch Library’s popular storyteller.

Though Parker has only been a full-time storyteller for BPL for four years, she has been involved at Avondale Library since she was first hired as a part-time storyteller 20 years ago. Ironically, she first became acquainted with Avondale Library while bringing her kids to storytime. “I brought my children to storytime at the Avondale Library on a regular basis for 11 years—from the time they were born until my youngest started kindergarten,” Ms. Eve said.

In a Q&A interview, Parker talked about the joy of bringing smiles to the faces of BPL patrons as storyteller Ms. Eve.

Ukulele 101 at Avondale Library
BPL: What do you love most about being a storyteller?
Ms. Eve: Everything! I love introducing children to stories and music and math and science. I love seeing their "ah-ha" faces as they make connections. I love introducing them to the many resources we offer—books, movies, music, and even ukuleles! I love making props that will help bring the stories to life, and creating crafts that will extend the story for our Tot Time children. I love writing songs to accompany stories. I love getting to know our families and seeing friendships develop between the families that regularly attend Tot Time.

I love helping parents help their children learn to love reading by bringing books to life through the art of storytelling. I love exposing children to big ideas in stories such as: was what happened fair?; did the character make good choices?; how did the character's choice affect the outcome?; etc. I love that I get to fuse music and story and art—all things that I love—when creating and executing programs.

I especially love to think that by encouraging our young patrons to realize their creative potential, they will become better innovators, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. I do love everything about storytelling!

Give an estimate of how many times you have read stories to kids at BPL over the years and how many storytelling events at BPL do you attend per year?
The idea that storytellers read stories is a common misconception. Storytelling is performance art and as such I do not read stories—I tell stories. While the stories I share with the younger children are primarily prop driven, the stories I share with older children are much more complex. It might take days or weeks to arrange and learn a story for oral retelling.

Over the years I have planned and executed many thousands of programs for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school aged groups, family groups, and even senior citizens.

What does it take to be good at reading stories to kids—aka what is the secret to keeping them engaged and participating? 
It is important to know your audience and to select age appropriate material. I often have much more material than necessary so that I can adjust the program to the needs of my audience. For my youngest audiences, storytime includes lots of music and movement. Beyond that, my storytime programs are interactive, literacy based, and adrenaline fueled!

Ms. Eve and former Tot Timers!
Anything else to add?
Storytime, especially Tot Time, is often an introduction of families to their local library. Many of the parents have not visited a library since they themselves were young, and they don’t know what we offer. They are looking for a connection to their community and for literacy-based experiences to share with their young children. These families learn about our many resources—books, music, CDs, DVDs, computers, and programming.

They also connect with other families to form neighborhood networks and playgroups. Their children have an opportunity to meet other children and share early literary experiences, thus creating life-long learners and library users. As parents and educators, both in and out of storytime, we all have an amazing opportunity to model and encourage good habits in our children.

Empathy, kindness, honesty, curiosity, and critical thinking are just a few of the habits, formed in youth, that we can encourage and model on a daily basis. Children’s literature provides us the perfect springboard, and youth librarians all over are eager to recommend the perfect books for our children.

At Avondale Library we have a Reader’s Advisory display in our Youth Department called “Let’s Talk About It.” The display contains books with big ideas for little people, and bookmarks with suggestions for starter questions for philosophical discussion. Even if you can’t make it to a storytime program, we hope you will come by to check out some of our sensational books!

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