Tis the spooky season, but the reading today is fun and light.
Stan the Skeleton sits on a chair in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center
wearing googly glasses, a pirate hat and a crooked, slightly menacing jaw. Dressed as a witch, medical librarian Mary-Kate Haver gathers patients and youths who have siblings in the hospital for story time.
Today’s tales about Dagmar the Vegetarian Vampire and Pumpkin Soup are more accessible than the material Haver often digs into. She dedicates much of her time to creating customized information packets for parents faced with confusing diagnoses and complicated medical terminology. Haver locates medical reference materials from authoritative sources and calls educational institutions with questions about resources available for patients that are their students. She helps distraught parents make sense of frightening medical conditions and understand how the hospital can help.
But on this day, the story time fears are imaginary and the tales exaggerated, “Vunce upon a time …".
Most of the kids are here for tutoring from Annette Pagliaro and Kendall Williams of the Child Life academic team. Some, like Mareike, a heart-transplant patient, are enrolled in the homebound program and do all of their schooling at the hospital and at home between medical procedures.
Mareike, 11, was planning on doing an algebra lesson, so she’s thrilled to be handed a colorful unicorn costume and asked to join the group for a Halloween story. She looks expectantly at her mom. “Can I keep the unicorn,” she asks, shyly. She is told yes and bounds off to join the group.
Haver needs some help turning pages, and Mareike’s furry unicorn hands will do the trick. Vampires, Frankenstein, Minnie Mouse—seemingly even Stan—sit expectantly, hanging on every word.
Haver delivers the stories, creating anticipation and tension, but in the end, they’re not so spooky after all.