Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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Monkeyshines and More as Cotsen Library Hosts Weekly Programs for Youngsters

Ellen Gilbert

“It’s story time,” called out Dana Sheridan, and, right on cue, about two dozen children, ages three to five, lined up and patiently waited their turn to tell the Cotsen Library Education and Outreach Coordinator their names. Then, proudly bearing a name tag, they returned to their seat—or favorite adult lap—for the week’s “Tiger Tales” reading, which begins with a bell-ringing à la Miss Frances and the admonition to “put your listening ears on.”

There’s no fee or registration required for this “interactive story time” that takes place every Friday from 11 a.m. to noon in the Cotsen Library, located on the first floor of Firestone Library at Princeton University.

Besides readings and crafts, there’s lots to do at the Cotsen. In addition to being a world-class collection of rare books, illustrations, playing cards, and other childhood artifacts, the Cotsen houses a whimsical gallery called “Bookscape,” where little ones can cocoon in a variety of playful nooks and crannies, or climb a tower to peer down at the moms, dads, grandparents, and caretakers who have brought them to this magical place.

The format for “Tiger Tales” is the same each week: Ms. Sheridan reads a story, and then everyone relocates to tot-size tables and chairs to work on a crafts project related to the reading. This particular week Ms. Sheridan’s lively rendering of The Boy Who Went Ape segued into the clever creation by each child of their own oatmeal container-based, three-dimensional simian, along with a banana-decorated t-shirt.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” said Princeton University junior Amy Chivetta, a volunteer who helps out with the program. “On campus you’re just with people your own age,” added another volunteer, Emily Harmon, also a junior. “The kids here are so innocent and they say such funny things; you take yourself less seriously afterward.” Indeed, passersby outside heading toward the library entrance who peer into the windows of the Cotsen often find themselves smiling at the unlikely sight of so many little folks listening intently or working away at the day’s project.

Younger siblings and other children continued to play in the “Bookscape” while Ms. Sheridan, her volunteer assistants, and a number of parents assisted the three to five-year-olds with their markers and glue. “Isaac’s been coming here since he was one,” said Samantha Cohoe of her two-and-a-half year old who was happily playing in the “tree house.” The wife of a current graduate student, Ms. Cohoe carried Isaac’s brother, three-month old David, in a pouch tied close against her, while other toddlers happily crawled around other Bookscape structures.

“There’s a high return rate,” said Ms. Sheridan of youngsters who return week after week for new stories and fun. “I’ve been here for five years, so I’ve gotten to see some kids graduate,” she added.

Other year-round Cotsen Children’s Library programs that are open to the public and free of charge include “To Be Continued,” for six and seven year-olds on Wednesdays at 3:45 p.m., and “The All-Ages Show” hosted by WPRB every Saturday from 12 to 1:30 p.m. on 103.3 FM (and streaming live at

For more information on Cotsen children’s programs, contact Ms. Sheridan at

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