Pre-K read at Fairfield Museum aligns with holiday train show
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – With all the puffing and chugging sounds emanating from the high-ceilinged meeting space, one would think there were multiple trains close by whizzing around tracks. But it was the excited chatter of a small band of youngsters being entertained with train stories.
The site was the Fairfield Museum and History Center at 370 Beach Road and the event was a Pre-K morning storytime session being led by docent Barbara Lucia. The animated and engaging storyteller regaled about a dozen children and their parents and caretakers with train tales that were not of the commercial, modern norm and followed a more classic path.
“There seems to be a natural connection between children and trains,” said Walter Mathis, a museum coordinator. “They’re fascinated by the colors, numbers, the tracks, the movement. With the storytimes, we try to help them learn other train stories beyond the popular Thomas stories to help them connect.”
Besides being a docent and storyteller, Lucia is a former teacher and grandmother. She had selected a stack of books to work through but recognized that the group’s attention span might be limited. However, the youngsters were not only rapt, but very participatory.
Appropriately, the storytelling area had been set up directly adjacent to the museum’s Holiday Express Train Show displays. Sitting beneath a large wreath, Lucia began showing pictures of different trains from a book titled “Trains”.
Fairfielder Liz Holcomb and son Mason, 2, were among the visitors. “Mason loves trains,” said Holcomb. “He’s obsessed I’d say. He likes Thomas and Polar Express, so we thought we’d come out today.”
Lucia showed a picture of a locomotive and asked about the cowcatcher apparatus at the front and its purpose. “It’s to clear things off the tracks!” said Ethan Landsman, 4, brightly. Mom Eileen, who had Ethan’s little brother Cole in tow, said, “Ethan loves trains. He has the Thomas trains and was Thomas for Halloween last year. He rode his first real train last weekend with his dad, down to Rye. He was very excited.”
Lucia led the children in a chorus of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”, flailing her arms and acting out song elements, then launched into the book “The Little Engine That Could”, the classic written by Watty Piper and first published in 1930. The children all recited, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”, which Lucia said was a good attitude to have.
Other tales included “Trouble on the Tracks”, about a little boy’s cat that wanders onto his toy train tracks, and “Two Little Trains”, penned by Margaret Wise Brown, who also wrote “Goodnight Moon.”
Periodically, a child would split from the group, too curious about the train set-ups to sit still. Jack Short, 3, was one who wanted to see the displays, with dad John. “Jack likes Thomas and all his buddies. I took the day off so we could see the train show and listen to the stories.”
Another book called “That’s Not My Train” had textured pages and Lucia let the kids touch and feel them. They excitedly gathered in a tight circle around her. She then led them in singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, which elicited claps and squeals as the children participated.
“Many children are interested in how the particular trains on display work,” said Mathis. “One of the trains has a sound card in it that makes it sound like a real train.”
Mathis had no sooner said that then it came time to actually set all the trains, which had been idle in their respective displays, in motion. “What does the conductor say at the beginning of the train ride?” he asked. “All aboard!” came the reply as the train with the sound card lurched into action. It was followed by a Percy train and two others, including the popular Thomas train.
The trains circled in opposite directions, navigating the tracks, tunnels and bridges, delighting all in attendance.