Color was the theme, and songs and stories were on the schedule as student volunteers Mercedes Hopewell and Mariam Addarrat exchanged bright, well-timed patter before a tyke-filled audience.
"What's this color?" Addarrat asked, pointing to a grassy patch in an oversize book perfect for sharing.
"Is that green?" said Hopewell.
"It's green," said Addarrat.
Maybe not sparkling dialogue to grown-ups, but when accompanied by vibrant pictures and performed in a story nook on wheels, the kids are all in.
Storytime-to-go was unveiled last week, and the wheels on this bus go 'round and 'round as it visits Fayette County day care centers.
Traveling story time was a dream for Toy Lancaster, youth services manager for the Lexington Public Library. She was inspired by another library that transformed an old school bus into a mobile story lab.
She'd been working on the idea for several years when Steve Sigg, owner of the Lexington-based software company SIS, offered to donate a bus his company had used for mobile training.
Many day care center personnel bring their young charges to story time at a library, but many others aren't close enough to a branch or don't have adequate transportation, Lancaster said. Storytime-to-go takes care of that. Working with the Child Care Council of Kentucky, the library offers the program to 11 day care centers.
The program is a chance to help little ones learn the basic skills they need to succeed in school and to introduce the library and all that it offers to parents and day care teachers. Early childhood education is key, Lancaster said, adding, "We are trying to push our resources out into the community."
Regina Rayan, co-director of the Hallis School in the Eastland area, is thrilled to have the story time lab come to her parking lot. Most of her 100-plus students come from low- income, working class families and can use some extra help in preparing for school, she said.
Plus, it's fun, she said. Her granddaughter was so excited the first day of story time, she woke up early and ready to go.
"It's the only time in a year I didn't have to get her out of bed," said Rayan.
The library shares the bus with the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, Lancaster said. The center will use it to offer more off-site hearing testing and services, said executive director Marcey Ansley, although specifics haven't been worked out.
The two groups split the $10,000 needed to retrofit the bus and decorate the outside with logos for both groups.
Although the library can't fit more day care centers into the schedule, it still needs program volunteers. The only paid person is the bus driver, Barry Davis.
Lancaster would love to have more help from students such as Hopewell and Addarrat, who are in the master's program in library science at the University of Kentucky, but all are welcome, she said. Training and materials are provide by the library. The children provide the reward.
When you see children laughing at a good tale, she said, "it just makes your week."
Want to help?
The Lexington Public Library is looking for volunteers for Storytime-to-go. Call Toy Lancaster at (859) 231-5536.
The library offers a special "educators card" for teachers that allows them to check out more books for longer periods. The library staff also can help with resources to augment lesson plans and to create story times. Check out the options at LexPubLib.org/parents-and-teachers or check with your local library.