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Story time for a special season

on December 24, 2009

The children sat in awe as the white, fluffy flakes fluttered down in serene literary cascades, like fairy dust sprinkled over the magic that is Christmas.

No, it wasn’t a miracle snowstorm in Richmond, but deftly-delivered children’s tales inside the city’s West Side Branch Library.

“I believe in the power of books and words and music,” said Colette Van Cleve, her 6-month-old grandson Max sitting wide-eyed on her lap. “We’ve been coming every week.”


Van Cleve and the toddler were two of about 20 mothers, grandmothers and small children who attended the library’s “Snow Stories” event Tuesday morning. Children’s Librarian Sheila Dickinson delivers dramatic readings at both the West Side and Bayview Branch libraries once per week, regularly drawing dozens of listeners.

But Tuesday’s event was a bit special. With Christmas only days away, Dickinson chose a theme of holiday wonderment blanketed in the figurative white powder that local kids rarely experience.

“We are doing stories about snow,” said Dickinson, a youthful 44-year-old who jumps and dances with the children. “Most of the country gets to see it up close, but the California kids don’t have that much exposure to the snow.”

Among the handful of books Dickinson read was “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats, a prize-winning 1962 tale that features a boy named Peter exploring his neighborhood after the season’s first snowfall.

The children were enthralled.


“Sheila’s story times are wonderful because it’s not just her stories but her poems and her music and her dance and her art,” said Corinne Jonas-Mayer, who came with her son, Jacob. “Every theme is just right on target for their development.”

The story time at the West Side Library Branch is especially dear to Point Richmond residents.

The branch reopened in March 2008 after being closed for four years due to budget constraints.

“They’ve become really wonderful parts of our community,” Jonas-Mayer said of the library staff.

Kerry Radcliffe, who brought her 6-year-old daughter Mia, said attendance was light because the session was scheduled close to Christmas.

“Generally the story time here is standing room only,” Radcliffe said.

Dickinson led the children though a handful of esteemed titles, interspersed with song and dance sessions, before ending with arts and crafts. The gathered audience made paper snowflakes.

“These young kids are all about sensation, the immediate in front of them,” Dickinson said. “It is a wonder immersion.”

20091223_snowstory.mp3| An audio journey through the magical land of literature at the local library.


  1. Sheila Dickinson on December 26, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for the nice article Robert. It is great that you all are seeing the treasures in Richmond! Only typo I found was my name spelled wrong in the photo caption, no e! Thanks, Sheila

  2. Janet Paige on December 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Sheila,
    Kudos! Great job. If nothing else,most kids remember their Children’s librarian because of librarian’s like you,

    Janet, your coworker

  3. Christina Nypaver on December 29, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for this lovely article on one of Richmond’s treasures! We are lucky to have such a great resource. Sheila is an inspiration to children and adults alike!

  4. Robert Rogers on December 31, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. We’ll keep an eye out and try to bring you fresh looks at future library programs.


  5. Dave on January 10, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Hi Sheila,

    Great hats! I’m writing Pope Benedict XVI and nominating you as the new Storytime Bishop for the Catholic Church. Your fans would like more audio and video of your storytimes!


  6. rosanne on January 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    story time rocks with sheila.

  7. Kathy on June 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Fabulous as usual, Sheila! Kathy

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