More recognizable than any celebrity to our preschool and younger set, Bobo the Monkey serves as our wildly popular story time puppet mascot. He leads our opening and closing songs and greets the hundreds of program participants in attendance at our busy Hope Mills Branch of the Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center in North Carolina.
For many of these kids, Bobo is the essence of story time. Our Youth Services Library Associate II Sarah Edwards, always thinking of innovative ways to extend the resources available at our high- circulating but smaller community location, decided to revise an idea she learned about at a conference. Our branch’s youth services supervisor Vicki Sheeler worked with Sarah to develop the procedures on just how to continue the library experience right into children’s homes with a special visit from a beloved story time participant. Meet Bobette, Bobo’s long-lost twin sister.
An identical puppet to Bobo (except for the addition of a flowered ankle bracelet she wears), our children can sign out Bobette to take home for a few days. When parents schedule a visit with Bobette, they borrow Bobette and a donated copy of I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal to read; participants are encouraged to autograph the book’s pages. Bobette’s accessories (hairbrush included) as well as a journal accompany the child home and allow the youngster and caregiver to work together to describe the details of Bobette’s visit.
Prep time is minimal. Statistics are maintained by staff and participation by patrons is voluntary (though this monkey has proved as popular as her sibling). There’s no punitive consequence if Bobette suffers a slight mishap during her travels (say an unfortunate run-in with markers), though lighthearted but serious care instructions encourage families to treat Bobette carefully. “Bobette likes to be read to, to have her picture made with you, to be brushed, sung to, and rocked. Bobette does NOT like water, especially bathtubs, pools and oceans, your live pets (unless you are holding Bobette safely in your arms), or to be fed real food. It is OK to feed her pretend food at your tea party or picnic!”
Photos in Bobette’s journal highlight her adventures, from her attendance at a soccer game, to an afternoon at the movies, and even to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese! These journal photos provided by families are optional, but they foster a shared experience among our participants. Bobette also serves as a natural conversation starter for families about our library programming when parents and kids talk about Bobette’s visit with their friends and neighbors.
Bobette extends the story time experience beyond the walls of our library for our youngest patrons. What story time mascots are a smash hit in your community? I look forward to learning the creative ways you enhance your programming experience for your library’s children!