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Story time veteran turns a page

Step left, step right, wiggle your nose, touch your toes.

Step left, step right, wiggle your hips, smack your lips.

Step left, step right, tug on your ear, sit on your rear.

Sometimes my hands are at my side, then behind my back they hide.

Sometimes I wiggle my fingers so, I shake them fast. I shake them slow.

Sometimes my hands go clap, clap, clap and then I lay them in my lap.

Then I’m quiet as I can be, because it’s story time you see.

It’s a familiar routine for hundreds, if not thousands, of toddlers and preschool-age children who have attended the Enumclaw Public Library’s story time through the past three decades.

Each phrase, flannel board enactment, craft, song and more than 200,000 stories was presented by Miss Charmayne.

Thursday was Charmayne Paasch’s final story time.

After 34 years of entertaining the Plateau’s children, Paasch is moving on to pursue interests outside the library system.

“I always go way overboard,” Paasch said of the reading, singing and dancing. “I want them to have the best experience they can have at the library.”

For many children, she said, story time is their first exposure to books.

Library Director Bob Baer agreed the reading and group interaction helps create a lifetime of library users.

“It’s an opportunity to involve families,” he said. “To do that prelearning. To get kids interested in books at that age. To get kids interested in knowing the libary.”

A hometown girl, Paasch started her career at the Enumclaw library as a page. When the library, then in the Stevenson-Yerxa building, went looking for someone to look after children’s programs and move them into the basement around 1972, Paasch moved into the role and started her version of story time.

As she starts to see the second and third generation of story time listeners appear with their parents and grandparents, Paasch said story time has evolved, but it’s also stayed the same.

“It’s very popular,” Paasch said.

So popular, with class size limited to 20, the library now offers three sessions – fall, winter and spring – two days a week with one class each for toddlers and preschoolers each of the two days.

Those wide-eyes as the alligator starts to smack his lips as Miss Charmayne reads from “Gator Gumbo” is one of the rewards.

“That’s the part of my job that’s the best,” she said. “That’s the best part of story time. They are so excited. They’re so into it. They look forward to it. The kids are the best part.

“I know it’s a milestone,” said Paasch, who was accepting cards and flowers from little ones Thursday, and said she will miss her co-workers.

She’s also looking forward.

For more than a year, she’s been planning to spend her time gardening, traveling, exercising and spending more time on hobbies like genealogy, making jewelry and collecting dolls.

Her last day will come in December.

Baer said not to fret, story time will continue. He plans to pick up Winter Story Time in January, although who will lead it is not known.

Paasch’s departure will likely play a role in the library’s budget process as the city is looking to freeze her position, which would allow the library to perhaps keep five of its employees working and reinstitute some of the proposed cuts in hours.

Thursday, Paasch sent her last group off like she has every story time for decades.

Sing a song of sunshine, be happy every day.

Sing a song of sunshine, just push the clouds away.

Be happy every moment in everything you do.

Just smile and smile and smile and smile,

and let the sun shine through.

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