When I first got pregnant, I used to hear about Story Time at Books & Books in Camana Bay. Passing by the store on the occasional Saturday morning, I’d see parents and their kids streaming in and out and think, “Wow, I can’t wait to take my son there once he is born!” The vision of smiling babies being pushed in their strollers or toddling around the knees of their coffee-fueled parents was a sight to behold, and it seemed like a great way to spend a weekend morning, although my husband would disagree. As my pregnancy moved into later months, the Story Time crowds seemed to get bigger and I couldn’t wait to join them.
Fast-track some two years later and I am now a working mom with a 17-month-old son who never made it to Story Time, until last week. It came down to pure and simple timing. At 10:30 a.m., Story Time was always smack-dab in the middle of Sebastian’s morning nap, and you know the phrase “never wake a sleeping baby.” Well, having a baby who loathed sleeping at night (and still has his moments, but that’s another article altogether), I took that statement very seriously, along with the other well-known phrase: “sleep when your baby sleeps.” Nothing and nobody was going to get me out of my house during that precious hour or so of blissful sleep.
When I finally had the opportunity to attend, I was aware that the event had become so popular it’s now held in Regal Cinemas (since December 2012), easily filling a 200-seat theater every Wednesday morning. Many moms and kids even linger afterward, chatting as they watch their little ones splash around in the nearby fountains. But a theater full of babies is not something you normally associate with fun – or is it?
As we pulled up to the long line of mommies, nannies and their plus ones and twos waiting to enter the theater, I wondered how this was going to go. Will Sebastian be captivated enough to sit still and follow the stories without having a meltdown or jiggle out of his seat? Maybe it’s not about the babies, but about mommies getting out of the house for their sanity (and to meet others in the same boat, of course). But now that he is older, how will my very active toddler behave? A toddler who would rather jump and play outside, put stones in his mouth and make lightning-dash runs for those fountains?
Once inside, I was taken aback by all the strollers lined up row by row around the concession stand. It felt like a movie premiere and my anticipation and curiosity grew deeper by the minute. However, when I glanced down at Sebastian, he didn’t seem that impressed. He stared around with a frown as he sat in his stroller while he cranked his head toward the window, staring back longingly. I pried him out and carried him toward the theater.
As we entered the familiar dark corridor and turned the corner, I was taken aback by the sheer number of people occupying the seats; there were even entire families and dads with kids on their own. Sebastian looked shell-shocked and suddenly clung to me. I found a seat in the top left corner and plunked him on my lamp and waited for the show.
Story Time begins
Three stories were read while being projected off the screen, and in between, YouTube videos were played as “commercials,” including a hilarious one for “Juicy Juice,” which showed precocious cartoon kids rapping a very catchy song. The stories read were “I’ll Follow the Moon” by Stephanie Lisa Tara, an award-winning book about a little green sea turtle’s journey to nest her eggs; “I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love” by Nancy Tillman, a book about the joys of imagination and knowing that you are loved; and “Your Mother’s Love” by Niki Alling, a rhyming verse book about the connection between mother and child. The kids’ responses were delightful and exuberant; they clapped, sang, jumped up and down, and shouted at and pointed to the screen. There were many “ohhs” and “ahhs,” too. As I looked around, many snuggled into their caretaker’s lap, some had snacks. Many seemed to come in groups, sitting side by side, but there were others sitting on their own.
Neyesha Watson, a Books & Books employee, has been the regular reader for more than two years and really engages and involves the children. Steven Wagner, store manager, confirmed my belief that Story Time’s growth is probably due to mothers and nannies or helpers wanting to get out of the house.
“What could be better than to have a story read to your kid with no obligation? Mothers can meet other mothers and their children can interact with each other.” He added that Story Time will appeal to kids from age 1 to 7, with 7 being on the older side, and although they might not be interested in the story, they would definitely be caught up in the singing and animation. And, perhaps most importantly, “Story Time plays an important role in introducing children to the wonder of books and learning,” he said.
Sebastian was definitely shy in the big group and when the lights dimmed he nestled into my lap and held onto my hand. He didn’t babble or point but he intently followed the animations and pages on screen. I read him a handful of stories at home each day and he loves books, always pointing and babbling and turning the pages for me, so it’s not a new concept, but since Story Time is on a much bigger scale, this mommy got a break from reading for once.
The hour went by quickly and Sebastian left happy; it was a new experience for him, which is really the most important thing for a toddler these days. There was a table of books in the hallway for sale by Books & Books, including the ones featured during Story Time. As I perused them, I placed him down for a second, and he made a bolt for the glass door as someone was coming in to the theater. He almost escaped, heading straight for those fountains, so I had to abandon my shopping to go do what I do best – chase after him.
Story Time at Regal Cinemas takes place every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Admission is free and is on a drop-in basis.