PELHAM — While numbers were down, that didn’t stop these numbers from standing up.
After Jahaira Negron, the president of Pelham High School’s French Honor Society, read: “Sept singes font de la gymnastique: Quel entrain, quel rythme!” (Translation: Seven monkeys do gymnastics: what energy, what rhythm!)
Kris Fournier, who was playing the part of No. 7, stepped forward and declared his name: “Sept!”
The audience responded by repeating Fournier’s name — “Sept!” — all as part of the French Honor Society’s first storytime at the Pelham Memorial Library on May 25.
Although it was poorly attended, with the audience consisting mostly of high- school students who are friends of society members, and only one actual child in the crowd, it was good practice run to a program anticipated to increase in the next school year.
“This is our debut. Next year we will really rock!” said Madame Jennifer Turk, dean of the world language department at PHS.
Society members waited nervously for some, any, kids to appear. When Emily Greenwood and her 4-year-old daughter Aili showed up, they received a warm reception with the room bursting into applause and cheers.
Negron read from the book: Un Hippopotame, Trois Petits Cochons (One Hippopotamus, Three Small Pigs) by Heidrun Boddin. Each page of the French counting book highlights a number, one through 10, along with a silly picture involving animals.
To illustrate the numbers, 10 society members each portrayed a number, wearing a poster-sized sign around their neck to identify themselves as Fournier did. When their page came up, they step forward and announced their number, then each number before them would repeat their numbers.
After the reading session was finished, the group retreated to the back corner of the children’s room to color a wheel, lining up each numeral with its French name for easy reference.
Negron said the group is working with Children’s Librarian Barbara Sobol to set up several storytimes for the 2006-07 school year.
“It is important to start a foreign language foundation with the little kids,” Negron said. “They are little sponges and can really take to new language.”
Negron is fluent in Spanish, French and English.
“I had a background in Spanish, so picking up French was easy because they are both based in Latin and are pretty similar,” she said. “Knowing different languages really opens your opportunities to jobs in the future and introduces you to an entirely different culture.”
The library’s partnership with the high-school students comes at a time when community support of programs such as storytime is much needed.
The Pelham Memorial Library’s popular Thursday Night StoryTime ended abruptly in March, a victim of budget cuts.
“It was very well attended with 12 to 20 kids at every storytime,” recalled Sobol.
The library’s six-week summer reading program begins in July. This year’s theme, “Treasure Reading,” means a lot of pirate stories, games and raffles. For more information, contact the library at 603-635-7581.