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Mayor, others connect kids to libraries during pandemic

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — New Mexico’s leaders have been reading books to children throughout the quarantine.

Since March, Mayor Gregg Hull has done many Facebook livestreams for the story time.

Mayor Gregg Hull, accompanied by his dog Sheldon, reads a book to children via live-stream from Loma Colorado Main Library. Courtesy photo.

The mayor got this idea from Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh. He did a one-time reading, and Hull was then inspired to create Facebook livestreams with community members.

“Well, I heard Mayor Kintigh down in Roswell had done one, and my daughter actually found out about it and said, ‘Hey, Dad, you ought to do this for kids in Rio Rancho.’ I actually called Mayor Kintigh and said thanks for the great idea,” Hull said.

Since then, he has done more than 16 videos, with Captain America scheduled to make an appearance Thursday.

Hull’s favorite reading was “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss.

“The reaction has been absolutely astoundingly positive, and so it’s been fantastic, and it’s been my way to communicate with the children of Rio Rancho and let them know they aren’t forgotten,” he said.

Hull wants “Story Time with Mayor Gregg Hull” to be accessible to as many Rio Rancho children as possible.

“After the Facebook live, we are adding the closed captions so that every child possible can enjoy the story time,” he said.

Hull livestreams from Loma Colorado Main Library.

Lynette Schurdevin is the city’s Library and Information Services Department director.

“I am a great fan of Dr. Seuss!” she said. “I love the rhyming and fun they bring to reading. And the artwork is unique and fun. What’s not to love about a green Grinch?”

She said the mayor, special guests, children’s librarians and she allow children to see and hear a story. Story times often have a theme, such as police and fire safety, cleaning and springtime. Schurdevin said Story Time with Mayor Gregg Hull maintains a connection to the library.

“Since we have been closed, I miss the vibrancy that the library patrons bring when they are here in the library. It feels lonely and, yes, I truly believe the books are lonely and missing their readers,” she said. “So in offering the virtual story time, it allows our library staff a great sense of meeting the needs of our readers and a connection to them.”

This trend of reading to children has caused a domino effect in community leaders, from Kintigh inspiring Hull to Hull inspiring Albuquerque’s District 5 City Councilor Cynthia Borrego.

Borrego began “Lavender Libros,” a YouTube channel that features New Mexico’s leadership reading children’s books. She has invited Hull to read on the channel.

“The idea for ‘Lavender Libros’ was inspired by watching Mayor Greg Hull’s weekly reading program online. I thought it would be nice to develop a learning program that would serve children in Albuquerque, and possibly statewide, during this COVID-19 environment,” Borrego said.

Borrego invites community role models to read on a volunteer basis.

“I hope ‘Lavender Libros’ helps parents keep our children engaged during this difficult time out of school. I’m also very excited so far with the reception, and community interest it has received. And, I’m delighted to say that the program has just taken off,” she said.

To view Story Time with Mayor Gregg Hull, search for his Facebook page, “Gregg Hull Mayor of Rio Rancho.”

Search “Lavender Libros” on YouTube to hear those readings.

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