February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Queens (NY) Librarian Reads to Alligator to Reward Summer Reading

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.


Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.



  1. I’m trying to come up with some snappy remark, but in the meantime may I applaud Susan for her dedication and imagination. Getting children to read books is still incredibly important.

    Some say that books are obsolete but I wonder how many of our current information storage methods will be useable in 200 years,. Now try 2,000 years into the future. As evidence, try the following. In 1984 to 86 Britain did “Domesday 2″, a collection of data, sounds, images and videos for the UK which was stored on the newest”Laserdisc” technology as it “should be useable for a long time”. In the 2000’s they had to copy the data onto several new storage media as there were only a few Laserdisc readers still working, and the computers that the system ran on were museum pieces. Here’s a link to to the Wikipedia article about it.

    Books on the other hand remain functional for centuries, and if you can understand the changes in language, for millennia. I can pick up a book printed in 1800 and if it’s in a language I know, read it without difficulty.

  2. Chris Gifford says:

    I declare, the things we do to get kids to read!

  3. Deannie S Fraser says:

    As a children’s writer, I can say that I haven’t met a children’s librarian who doesn’t go the extra mile for his/her young patrons – but dear Susan Scatena, re jello and alligators – you’ve gone the extra mile. Yu deserve to have someone write a picture book about you and your exploits! What a fun picture book that would be!! Bless ya :)