Destination: Storytime at Quail Ridge Books & Music
Posted March 6, 2014
Updated February 16, 2016
The storytime at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh is more like a conversation than a book reading.
Here, preschoolers gather on the floor at the Raleigh book store to listen to Shawn Oakley (known as Ms. Oakley to storytime regulars). She reads the words on the pages, of course. But she also leads the kids in simple finger plays, comments on the illustrations or tells a related story from her own life as she reads the books.
There's no downtime here; no break when she's turning a page. But it's quiet and calm. The kids sit, transfixed most of the time, by her storytelling and questions and activities.
At a recent storytime, she remembered the willow tree she had picnics under as a child when a willow was featured in a book. She described the branches as "curtains around us." She asked the kids about what happens to dandelion seeds. And she had them pretend to be tree branches.
She wraps up the morning with a craft that's related to the books. Sometimes kids glue on pictures to create a scene from the illustrations. Other times they make their own little books or other simple crafts with things like paper plates or cardboard tubes or paper bags. The walls of the restroom in the children's section are covered with her art projects. Destination: Storytime at Quail Ridge Books & Music
Linda Walker (better known as Mz. Linda to the kids who stop in for storytime) said there's something about Oakley's sweetness and gentle demeanor that has drawn kids and families for so many years.
"She loves the store, the children and the literature," said Walker, who joined Quail Ridge as a children's book seller six years ago after a career as a school librarian.
What makes it even more remarkable is that Oakley, a mom, is a volunteer. She donates her time not only for the Monday morning storytimes but, at home, preparing and cutting countless pieces for the craft portion of storytime in advance. It's a natural fit for Oakley, who said it's important to support local businesses like Quail Ridge.
"I love children. I love books. And I've always loved art," she said. "Art is just an extension of me."
Oakley's first time at a Quail Ridge storytime was as a parent. A friend told her about the weekly program and she brought her youngest son, then 4. One thing led to another and Oakley, who has a degree in elementary education, eventually began leading the storytimes.
Oakley and Walker work together on programs, which run about 40 minutes on Monday mornings. Oakley often picks her own books to read, but Walker sometimes will give suggestions. Walker, who says she has "a voice that children don't mind listening too," will sometimes lead the kids in music and movement. She also fills in for Oakley. Special guests also attend storytime sometimes.
The preschool storytime is 10:30 a.m., Mondays, at the book store nearly every week. It's free. No pre-registration is required. It's designed for preschoolers, but kids ages six months to six years were there when I visited a couple of weeks ago. Oakley and Walker tell me that homeschool groups often drop in for the program and there are lots of school-aged kids during summer break.
I've taken my kids here over the last nine years and love it. I highly recommend this great storytime and all of the other special programs at Quail Ridge for kids, including summer book clubs, activities for teens and regular visits from some of the top children's authors in the business.
Walker and the rest of the children's book staff also are fantastic if you're looking for recommendations for books for your own children or family and friends. They do a fantastic job over there.
For more about the storytime, watch my video interview with Oakley and Walker. For more about all of the programs the book store offers for kids and families, click here.
Find Quail Ridge at 3522 Wade Ave.