Rub-a-dub-dub, put readers in the tub It's a sought-after seat at St. Paul's library

March 15, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

When librarian Winnie Flattery meets alums of St. Paul's Lower School, she counts on them asking about the bathtub.

Her answer is always the same: Yes, the tub is still a fixture in the library, a coveted spot to settle in and enjoy a good book.

For almost longer than anyone can remember, elementary students at the Brooklandville school have been able to climb -- on a first-come, first-in basis -- into a spacious old-fashioned bathtub for part of their weekly library period.

There, they can lie back, not among bubble bath and rubber duckies, but into red corduroy-covered pillows with a stuffed animal -- or a book buddy -- by their side.

"You can take off your shoes and sort of lay down," said first-grader Angela Chaix.

Laura Pierpont, a pre-first-grade student, is exuberant about the tub: "I just love it so much."

Students in the school's pre-first through fourth grades go to the library once a week for 45 minutes. Half of the period is spent with a librarian, learning how to use the library or hearing a story. Then the children are free to find a book and spend the rest of the period reading.

"The bathtub was here when I got here," said Flattery, who's been at the school for 20 years. "At that time, we were in a real small room. The tub was the focal point."

Since the lower school was rebuilt and expanded after a fire in 1990, the library is more spacious, and it now has two reading tubs.

The original tub, painted light blue with pictures on it, is a little the worse for wear. It rests in a wooden cradle made by the school's maintenance department. Tub No. 2, acquired when a family remodeled its bathroom, is large enough for three youngsters and stands on its claw feet.

"You try to establish nooks and crannies to the best of your ability for them to settle down in," said Flattery.

Students get to use the tubs as they are available. The rules are simple: Take off your shoes, bring a book and don't throw the animals. Except for the end of the class period, "There's no time limit, because if you get there, you ought to be able to enjoy it," said Flattery.

Making youngsters feel at home in the library is a big part of Flattery's job.

She and assistant librarian Susan Myers use color-coded stickers to indicate types of books, so children can find what they're looking for. Though eager to help those who want it, the librarians let children check out their own books.

Above all, Flattery says, children need to be at ease with reading materials.

"They can read on their level for a while," rather than constantly being prodded to more challenging materials, Flattery says.

"You are never too old to read picture books. If you only have a few minutes in the library, go to the picture book section," she advises youngsters and adults.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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