Weaving her way through the families lounging under umbrellas at Bayville’s West Harbor Beach Tuesday morning, librarian Jill Abbatangelo summons as many of them as she can over to the picnic area.
“It’s Storytime! It’s Storytime,” she practically sings as she calls to the kids playing in the sand and splashing in the water.
Before long more than 20 kids, the younger ones accompanied by their parents, are gathered around her under the shade of the trees. Sitting on beach chairs, blankets or towels, some nibbling on goldfish crackers and slices of watermelon, the kids keep their eyes locked on “Miss Jill” as she makes her way through today’s stack of books.
This ritual takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning during the summer, from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the village-owned beach, which is exclusive to Bayville residents. Abbatangelo, 54, a Bayville native and part-time librarian at the Bayville Free Library, estimates that the program, dubbed “Storytime by the Bay,” has been going on for at least a decade and suspects it is unique to Bayville.
Abbatangelo, who also works as a librarian for the Lawrence School District, said she’s always impressed by how attentive the kids are as she reads book after book despite the distractions of the water, the beach and the nearby playground.
“I actually think that they’re much more relaxed outside under the trees than they are in the library under the florescent lights,” she said.
Sisters Mollie Murray, 8, and Meghan Murray, 9, sat through all 11 books that Abbatangelo read Tuesday. Since they were toddlers, the girls have been coming to West Harbor Beach with their mother to take swimming lessons, and have rarely missed a storytime.
“You get to read with other people and read books that you never knew existed,” Mollie said
“Some of the books are funny,” Meghan added.
The girls’ mother, Karen Murray, said she likes the “structure” the program gives her daughters, adding, “It keeps them motivated to do their nightly summer reading.”
Plus, it gives her some time to relax on the beach alone.
“I have nobody, saying ‘I’m hungry and I’m thirsty,’” she joked.