Always a good day to have Storytime

Photos by Daniel Jackovino
Storytime in the Little Theatre at Bloomfield Public Library, a room full of children and their parents watch Cheryl Locastro perform.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — On Monday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m., “Ms. Cheryl” held court in the Bloomfield Public Library’s Little Theatre, located in the basement of the Children’s Library, for an energetic 45 minutes of Storytime. Although it was Presidents Day, the library was open and 17 children listened to stories and cavorted, watched, asked questions and chewed apples, while a dozen parents smiled at the sight or quietly encouraged their offspring. The children were from 5 years of age to a youngster not more than several months who was in their father’s lap.

Ms. Cheryl’s dress was a print of a repeated sheep image. It was, she announced, a clue to her selections for the session, which were stories about various animals and, in one case, “an old lady who swallowed a cow, we don’t know how.” But first came a song about Monday.

“Let’s start out with my ‘Days of the Week’ song,” said Ms. Cheryl, who can improvise a song on the spot.

Her first reading was “Sheep in a Jeep,” who drove down a hill too steep and wound up in a heap and had to sell their jeep, cheap. Ms. Cheryl said the book was too silly even for her.

“Ms. Cheryl,” the storyteller, is Cheryl Locastro, the head of children’s services for the BPL, and she will tell you she has no acting experience.
“It all comes from here,” she said, touching her heart. “My certification is K-12 art teaching.”

Locastro has been working at the library since 2014, starting out as a part-time clerk. Her experience with groups is from employment in the recycling industry. She gave PowerPoint presentations at school assemblies.

“One of the benefits of Storytime is that it gives parents an idea of what to do when they read to their children,” Locastro said. “All children learn differently. Some have to move around, some have to snuggle up to mom and dad. We encourage and expect the parents to interact with their children during Storytime.”

She said there used to be age guidelines for Storytime, when she was a part-time reader, in 2016. The next year, the responsibility was all hers. On Monday, Feb. 20, she was assisted by Lisa Piacenza. A goal of Storytime, according to Locastro, is to provide encouragement to use the library.

“The books I choose are 99 percent of the time in the library,” she said.
Storytime is a free, year-round activity; just drop in. And on Wednesdays, there is Bilingual Storytime. The languages read are English and Spanish, but Arabic and Gujarati, an Indian language, have also been read. Locastro said a library staff member assists. The BPL can be reached at 973-566-6200.