New York City children’s librarian Susan Scatena of Queens Library at Whitestone this week has fulfilled the promise she made to her young patrons at the start of the summer by reading a story aloud to a live alligator. The unusual storytime fulfilled Scatena’s half of the pact she made with the children that at least 300 of them would register in her summer reading program and, collectively, read at least 4,000 books. In fact, they exceeded their goal; 344 children registered and together finished 4,595 books.
Scatena read Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under My Bed to Wally, a 5-foot-plus female alligator, while hundreds of children looked on. Wally was handled by reptile trainer Erik Callendar. Callendar also taught the kids about how alligators live in the wild.
According to Queens Library, Scatena has a long history of motivating her young readers with wild challenges. She annually promises that if they meet their summer reading goals, she will perform an over-the-top stunt. Previous challenges have had her sitting in a tub of jello, dressing in a rabbit suit and kissing a bunny, and cuddling an enormous python.
Tens of thousands of children participate in Queens Library’s summer reading programs borough-wide.