How the Mayor Stole Storytime

Deptford Township Mayor Paul Medany spent a recent morning reading to toddlers at the Deptford Free Public Library to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday and “Read Across America.” Among the 2- and 3-year-old children in attendance were Chloe Barnes, Myka Rebok, Harper Dougherty, Jack Crawford, Aiden Smith, Max Dilella, Dillon Holmes, and Maeve Lawrence. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Donned in an electric blue wig and black-and-white T-shirt – outfitted with a fake red bow tie – Deptford Township Mayor Paul Medany had a captive audience.

Eight pre-preschool-aged children gathered around him inside the children’s section of the Deptford Township Free Public Library. Medany read the Dr. Seuss-inspired “I am Max.”

One talkative toddler wasn’t buying Medany’s get-up.

“You are the Grinch,” she said.

“No, I’m not,” Medany said. “I’m Thing 1.”

“No,” she said with a smirk. “The Grinch.”

“That’s my granddaughter,” Medany said with a laugh before using his hand to mimic talking. “Can’t you tell?”

The mayor and his tiny council for the day enjoyed their storytime session. For two straight days, Medany and Dina Zawadski, the township clerk and library board president, celebrated “Read Across America” and Dr. Seuss’ birthday by visiting the library to read to toddlers.

Medany, who also visited Deptford Township schools this month for the event, said it’s been a staple in his late-winter calendar for 13 years as mayor.

“It’s fun for the kids and me, too,” he said. “I finally get to have fun doing something. But it’s also important. And it’s educational. It gets the kids reading books and exposed to the library, which we all love so we want to promote, for sure.”

The annual event fits right into the library’s plans, too. Jenna McAndrews, the library’s director, wants to continue to host events that nurture a child’s interest in reading.

“I think reading to children is extremely important,” she said. “I have one child and I’ve been reading to him since he was an infant.”

“The earlier they start reading (the better),” Medany said. “Listening to stories is a part of that.”

Medany’s second reading selection was “I am Cindy-Lou Who,” also based off of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”

Theodor Seuss (“Dr. Seuss”) Geisel would have turned 115 years old on March 2. But his popular work lives on in the more than five-dozen books, some that have also become memorable movies and cartoon TV specials.

“(Dr. Seuss material) is fun to listen to and to read, in general,” McAndrews said. “I like reading Dr. Seuss. There’s a lot of rhyming involved and kids in general love rhyming. It’s either amusing to them or it helps them learn sounds and learn words better, because it kind of sticks in your head if it’s rhyming, than just prose that doesn’t rhyme (would). So it’s fun. For the kids and adults.”

The funny pictures complement the rhyming prose, too.

“They’re weird and wacky,” she said, “and stick in your mind.”

Whether it’s hosting an official event (check the library’s Facebook page for the most updated listing) or entertaining walk-up visitors throughout the week, the library welcomes the opportunity to help spread children’s love for reading.

“We like to have events like this and the FURever as Friends, every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, when they read to animals,” McAndrews said. “There isn’t a judgment thing; reading to a dog or cat, it’s not like someone is going to correct them for a mistake or mispronouncing words.”

The mayor was just as accommodating as a therapy pet. He joked with the kids and even took off his wig at one point to let them know he was playing a character. In previous years, he’s dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

Maybe his granddaughter was simply suggesting his character for 2020.

“I’ve never dressed as the Grinch,” Medany said with a sly smile. “I’m trying to maintain my image.”

(RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)