Little Read
NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
Montclair Local reporter Erin Roll reads “Roxaboxen,” by Alice McLerran and Barbara Cooney, to an assembled audience of students from the Montclair Child Development Corporation and from Edgemont School at the Montclair Public Library on Oct. 17.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Once more into the big chair!

Last year, your faithful correspondent signed up as a reader for the Little Read at the Montclair Public Library, my first year doing so.

I discovered that not only did I not do a bad job of reading to the kids, but I also actually enjoyed it. So I made a mental note to come back for round two the following year.

That being said, I still had a slight case of the jitters as I was sitting in the library’s auditorium, watching the gaggle of kids take their seats on the floor.

Last year, I went with “Frog Medicine,” by Mark Teague.

This year, I went with an old favorite: “Roxaboxen,” by Alice McLerran and Barbara Cooney. The book came out in 1991, when I was just going into elementary school. I remember being enamored of it when a teacher read it to us in first grade, so much that when the book fair came around to our school later that year, I bought my own copy.

For those of you not familiar with the story, “Roxaboxen” tells of a group of children living in a small desert town who create their own little town on a hill covered with rocks, old boxes and other odds and ends.

I’d briefly considered reading Jon Scieszka’s “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” But I dropped it for two reasons: There was a real risk that I could break down laughing midway through the book and not be able to finish. The other? I was afraid I’d get some tsk-tsking from the teachers about the book’s humor being a little too edgy for little kids.

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I’d also considered going with “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury, but I thought it might be a bit longer than the 10-minute time limit would allow.

So many books, so little time.

On Thursday morning, I arrived at the library, bright and early, book in hand. I’d just had a cup of tea to loosen up my voice, and I was wearing my new multicolored frog socks for luck.

They were expecting a big crowd of kids, the library staff told me: 135 over the course of the day. The first group of kids would be from Edgemont, and the Montclair Child Development Center. Later on, a group of kids would come in from Nishuane.

Wait a minute, I thought. Are these kids going to like “Roxaboxen,” or is it going to go completely over their heads? Because I was reading this story in first grade, a few years older than some of these kids.

Oh, just wing it, I said. Kids love hearing a story being read to them, no matter what.

In came the kids, all of them wearing bright yellow MCDC jerseys over their jackets and coats, with a group of teachers shepherding them in. The Edgemont kids came in just a little bit later.

Selwa Shamy, the library’s assistant director, gave the kids a short welcome. “Our first reader is named Erin. And she works at a newspaper.”

The Big Red Chair, the signature of the Little Read, is still pretty big, and I still needed the step stool to get up there.

“Marian called it Roxaboxen. She always knew the name of everything,” I read.

For the grownups at least, the Little Read is a reminder of how much we loved sitting on the rug in kindergarten, or even into first or second grade, listening to the teacher or the librarian read a story to us. And there is something very fulfilling about doing the same for another group of kids.

I hung around for a few minutes afterwards to listen to some of the other stories, like “The Cow Loves Cookies,” and “The Baby Beebee Bird.” Because grownups (or kids in grownups’ bodies) love to listen to stories as well.

The red chair has gone back into storage until next year. So it’s time to sit back and decide what to read next.