Bookstore employee offers weekly story time for children

February 24, 2011|BY CHRIS COPLEY |
  • Bookstore employee Tom Doty says reading books on Wednesday mornings to children visiting Borders Books Music & Cafe is his favorite part of the work week.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Tom Doty gets to work early on Wednesdays. By 6 a.m., he's carrying boxes, straightening merchandise and restocking shelves. At 10, the doors open and Doty drags shelves with discounted books outside to lure customers.

All in a morning's work at Borders Books Music & Cafe.

But shortly after 10, Doty gets a big smile on his face. It's the time of the week he looks forward to.

He reads stories to visiting children.

"This is the highlight of my week," he said.

Reading books to kids is important to Doty. He is the father of two young sons — Campbell, 5, and Robbie, — and he sees how they grow from books. Actually, storytelling and story reading are family traditions.

"My mom's grandfather told stories. He came from Russia. My mom read to me," Doty said. "It's what I do with my two kids at the end of the day. It's my favorite part of the day."

Doty began reading to children at Borders about a year and a half ago, he said. He took over as story reader when another Borders employee left the company.

For story time on Wednesday, Doty picks two or three books off Borders' shelves. He looks for books that would appeal to preschool-age kids. They might be seasonal. They might show kids learning lessons about life. They might address concerns or questions children have about growing up.

But whether he picks books that entertain or educate, Doty said he always looks for books with big illustrations and engaging text.

 "We have a lot of younger kids who like things that rhyme and are goofy," he said.

That plays to Doty's strengths. He likes to make the stories come alive. And he's a bit of a ham.

"I have a theater background. I do voices. I try to be animated," he said.

During the reading, Doty holds the book up so kids can see the pictures. He looks around and catches kids' eyes to make sure they're following him. And he reads loudly enough so all his young listeners can hear — his audience can range from a few children to more than two dozen.

Doty does all this, he said, because he likes kids, and he believes books have value for children. Reading exposes children to unfamiliar things. Plus, a parent can only teach so much.

"Reading brings all the things you can't cover as a parent," he said. "You can say a million times 'You're lucky to have a roof over your head and three meals a day.' Then you read your kids a story about a boy in sub-Saharan Africa and they get it."

On Wednesdays, after reading to his young bookstore visitors, Doty sits with them and shares a snack. He talks with them about their lives, their pets, the stories he just read. For a few minutes, Doty is a friendly father figure.

Then story time is over. Doty says goodbye and returns to other duties in the store. But he hopes he has helped his young listeners to appreciate books and reading.

"Reading really helps people put on different shoes. It completes the job of a parent," he said. "Thank god my kids love to read."

If you go ...

WHAT: Kids' story time at Borders

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays

WHERE: Borders Books Music & Cafe, 17636 Garland Groh Blvd., Hagerstown, near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Interstate 81.

COST: Free

CONTACT: Call Borders at 301-745-5897

MORE: Thirty minutes of story time with refreshments following.

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