Hundreds turn out for Literacy Day

Last modified: 4/15/2012 12:00:00 AM
Why, at 8:15 a.m. on a sunny April Saturday, were nearly 100 people waiting at the doors to Merrimack Valley High School?

'I have geeky children,' said Bekie Braley of Concord, pointing to her 6-year-old daughter Jennifer Sonderegger.

Last year, Braley, Jennifer and their friends arrived at 9 a.m., and the line snaked around the building, they said.

More than 600 other children joined these early birds at the fifth annual New Hampshire Literacy Day.

Sarah Mancini of Loudon recommended the event to Braley. Her kids love to read, too, she said.

Her niece Kaydence may be just 15 months old, but she gets story time every night.

'We use the library as much as possible, but you can't wear those books the same as one you own. They don't get quite the same love,' she said.

But really, Jennifer and Kaydence and the other tots might have just been the grown-ups' excuse to play. An hour later, Braley was the one whose face was brightly painted with a butterfly wing.

The day was one when everyone could indulge his or her inner child. The real kids got five tickets apiece to redeem for books in rooms around the building and at Merrimack Valley Middle School across the parking lot. Some rooms had live animals from the W.I.L.D. Centre in Rochester or the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center to go along with the books about animals they handed out.

Moms and dads, grampas and grammies ooh'ed and aah'ed as much as the toddlers as Tundra the artic fox circled in her cage.

They knelt down and ran their fingers over the bumps on Tudor the tortoise's shell, and stuck their hands through the fence to pet a calf called No. 2729, from Morrill Farm in Penacook.

Some, like Stacey Brown of Concord, couldn't help setting everything down to test drive The Hidden Bestiary, a picture book her son, 4-year-old Jack, ultimately approved as being worth a ticket.

What did Jack think of the book?

'It's cool like Star Wars,' he said, between licks of a lollipop.

Of course, even big kids get tired sometimes.

By 10:30 a.m., the new arrivals had slowed to a trickle, and No. 2729 was curled up for a rest in the hay.

More than 600 little hands - and a few dozen big ones - had crowded around her pen and pet her bristly hair, and it was time for a nap.

Instead of hitting the hay, Gerry Tanguay of Raymond and his son-in-law Steve Cadieux took to leaning against the lockers in the middle school.

Tanguay's wife Donna is a member of the Granite State Reading Council, which organized the event, so they brought the whole family: son Peter, his wife Jennifer and son Blake, 5, from Hooksett, and Cadieux, his wife Jennifer and daughter Lindsey from Windham.

The rest of the group was playing with Legos or hearing a story read aloud in one of the other rooms.

Blake, who's 5 and old enough to read on his own a little, has attended the event since he was just a tyke, said Tanguay.

'Now he's the type who goes into a Dollar Store and he's not buying toys, he's buying books,' said the laughing grandfather.

Lindsey, 2 years old, loves the animals most for now, Cadieux said. She remembered Tudor the tortoise from last year, and was excited to see him again.

'It's an incredible event because they can coordinate what the see in the books with the characters they meet, even after we get home,' he said.

With that, the Lego group finished and Lindsey came out of story time, another book clutched in her hands.

'I'm bringing it home,' she said, hugging the book to her chest.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or

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