By Shawn King
Children’s librarian Susan Scatena is willing to look danger in the eye and read it a story if it means getting more children to read.
Scatena, a librarian at the Queens Library in Whitestone, annually makes outrageous promises to children in order to get them to register for the summer reading program.
This year’s promise? If at least 300 children registered and read at least 4,000 books over the summer, Scatena would read a story to a live alligator.
The children held up their end of the bargain: Almost 350 registered children read nearly 5,000 books. As promised, last Thursday in front of hundreds of excited children from the neighborhood, Scatena read “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” by Mercer Mayer to Wally, a female alligator more than 5 feet long, with razor-sharp teeth and scaly skin.
Scatena’s past stunts include dressing as a rabbit and kissing a bunny, sitting in a tub of jello and kissing a python.
Wally the alligator was handled by Eric Callendar, who used the opportunity to give the children a quick lesson on alligators. He as quickly corrected by one of the children, however, after mentioning that thanks to protective legislation alligators in Florida are no longer endangered.
“Alligators can save themselves. They just bite whoever tries to endanger them,” a young girl from the audience said.
When asked about the story, Wally the alligator had no comment.
The Queens Library summer reading program has tens of thousands of participants annually throughout the five boroughs. Miss Susan, as she is called by the children, is determined to motivate kids to read as much a possible over the summer.
Summer reading events are held in each Queens Library location and have a full schedule of educational and fun activities.