Children who read with us at our Pajama Program Reading Centers are sometimes excited, sometimes curious and almost always shy at first. I will always remember one of my first groups in Yonkers, N.Y., a group of 4- to 5-year-olds. One afternoon four little girls walked in and took a seat with me and Elmo (the doll) at our reading table. I said, "Oh, it's us girls today!" Then little Alfonse walked in and I said, "And one boy!"
I asked, "What would everyone like to read about today?"
"A princess," called one of the girls. "Cinderella," called another excitedly.
I combed through all the books on the shelves knowing we did indeed have Cinderella and princess books.
"Yes, a princess book, PLEEEEEEEASE!" the girls begged
Little Alfonse looked so sad. "Do you have any books for kings?" he asked shyly.
"Sure I do!" I exclaimed, trying to hide my smile.
But I knew finding a "king" book was a tougher task than finding a "princess" book. "I'm sure I do," I promised him under my breath.
I looked through our bookshelves in a panic, furiously praying for a "king" book to appear on the shelves.
"Aha!" I exclaimed, pulling out Gulliver's Travels. "Here you go... here's a king. See how big he is?"
"He's not a king...he's a giant!" retorted Alfonse, not happy at all.
"A giant, hmmmm," I said as he handed the book back to me, dismayed.
Then, miraculously, I found Mickey Mouse on the cover of The Prince and the Pauper ... and he was wearing a crown!
"Here's a KING book!" I said as I showed Alfonse. I crossed my fingers and held my breath.
He smiled brightly and beamed. "And he's wearing his crown!"
Then I had a thought. What if one of the staff members told him Mickey wasn't a king, but just a mouse or a mere prince? Would Alfonse's trust in me disappear?
So quickly I added, "Mickey's a prince right now because his dad is the king and lets him wear his crown. But when he gets older, he'll be the king!"
It worked. Alfonse nodded his head in agreement and all was right with the world. At least for an hour in our Pajama Program Reading Center.