Bedtime Book Club carries on Snuggle and Read tradition

Suzette Lowe
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The phrase ‘the book will find the child’ holds true for the partnership of Jackson County Early Explorers and Read Aloud of Jackson County.

For Cheryl Miller, who as part of Read Aloud offered her Snuggle and Read program, it has special meaning.

“When we were able to have that type of story time, the children picked out the book that appealed to them, one that ‘found’ them that they could take home, along with a blanket provided by Constellium,” she said. “It was so precious seeing that connection.”

It was frustrating not being able to have that family reading time with children and their parents.

Miller, who co-founded Jackson County Early Explorers with Jessica Isner, also saw that hugely popular enrichment program for young children being unable to be active.

“One day I had a preschooler come up to me, out of the blue, and beg me to read him a story,” said Miller. “I knew right then, and Jessica agreed, that we had to do something to meet this need.”

A natural collaboration between the county’s read aloud program and Early Explorers was formed easily with 150 books that were left over from Snuggle and Read. These, along with a blanket, would be put in book bags for children to find at the Read, Play and Grow station at Cedar Lakes.

Opening a book bag to find her blanket and book was a highlight of Sadie’s day.

“With our mission and knowing how popular Early Explorers past book bag distributions were,” said Janet McCauley, president of the local read aloud board, “it was a win-win partnership.”

McCauley said the concern that children would not get ‘their’ book was quickly dispelled.

“The very first child who picked up a packet said, ‘Oh that’s just what I wanted,’ so we knew we’d done our job,” she said.

But still for Miller there was something missing.

“I had another child come up and grab me by the legs and beg for a story,” she said. “It hurt my heart that I couldn’t do that.”

Miller said she couldn’t get the idea of children not getting their bedtime story out of her mind.

“In this pandemic, we forget that children are hurting and feeling stressed,” she said. “They need a time to settle down and feel loved and safe.”

That child hungering for a story planted the seed for Bedtime Book Club.

Each Monday at 6 p.m., Miller posts a story time on Facebook. It can be accessed at any time by going on to the Jackson County Early Explorers or Read Aloud Jackson County page.

“First we get the wiggles out, then settle down for three stories.” Miller said.

The ‘Story Lady’ as Miller has been dubbed, has already gotten a large following, including a grumpy cat who comes out of hiding every time he hears her voice.

Knowing that children look forward to each week’s story means so much to Miller.

“I had a little girl come up to me just to share how much she loved the little duck story I read the other night,” she said.

McCauley said parents have also expressed their appreciation for the efforts of both Early Explorers and Read Aloud.

“They tell us that their children are hurrying in from outside play to read their books,” she said. “Several have said they hear their children singing or reciting phrases from their favorite stories.”

For Miller and McCauley, that’s what it’s all about, connecting children to books and instilling a love that can last a lifetime.