Young readers win bunny bet

Susan Scatena is the Children’s Librarian at the Queens Library in Whitestone, and she will do almost anything to get kids to leaf through a book, even if it means showing up on the library steps in her pajamas and wearing bunny ears, then kissing a rabbit.
On Thursday, September 6, that’s exactly what Scatena did, in front of a throng of local parents and children, many of whom wanted to buss the bunny, too. “I had offered to kiss a goat or even an iguana, but we couldn’t find one. The Queens Farm museum had rabbits, so that set the tone,” Scatena said.
Studies prove that children who read during the summer school hiatus retain more learning, and get the jump on their academic work. So Scatena has taken to offering to perform interesting stunts if enough kids sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program.
“Kids give me ideas all winter and I don’t mind getting a little messy if it’ll get children interested in reading,” the Flushing resident said. “It has to be something kid-friendly, not too expensive, safe and something we can do on the library steps.”
Last year, if the local children signed up and read 1,000 books, the light-hearted librarian offered to sit in a tub of red, blue and purple gelatin and allow three of the kids to dye her hair purple, which she ultimately did - much to the delight of those rascally readers.
This year, she raised the bar, challenging 250 youngsters to sign up and read 2,000 books over the summer. Nearly 300 local kids hopped at the chance, and read more than 3,700 books, including “Read to Your Bunny,” by Rosemary Wells.
Scatena’s efforts have been recognized by The James Patterson Foundation, which gave her its “Pageturner Award,” which comes with a $5,000 grant, in recognition for her effort last year.
Patterson, a mystery novelist, created the foundation to reward schools, libraries and individuals, “that go to extraordinary lengths to spread the joy of books and reading across the country.”
What about next year? Scatena sighs, “My friend has some ideas, but he won’t tell me.”

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