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Wendy M. Levy/The Commons

Jemma and Matthew Prue Jr. peruse their books.

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Bedtime stories

Pajamas and Books Party at Ledgewood Heights introduces kids to the joys of reading

BRATTLEBORO—The community center in the Ledgewood Heights neighborhood recently took on the appearance of a staging area for a big slumber party, minus the pillow fights and sleeping bags.

Little kids and big kids — sometimes accompanied by an adult, sometimes accompanied by other kids — filed into the two adjoining rooms to snack on milk and cookies and grab the essentials for a sleepover: pajamas and books.

Lucy Tell and Denice Brown, coordinators for the Brattleboro Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, organized the Pajamas and Books Party, which took place on April 30, for residents of Ledgewood Heights.

“We will be giving away books that range from baby books to teenage novels and pj’s ranging in size from toddler to 12 to 14,” the invitation said.

All the books and pajamas came from a donation from an organization called the Pajamas Program.

This New York City-based nonprofit’s mission is to provide “new pajamas and new books to children in need nationwide... Some of the children are living with their families below the poverty level, in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter. These two simple gifts of pajamas and books let the children know that someone cares — sometimes these are the only new things they have ever received."

“I found it online,” Brown said about the Pajamas Program. Upon learning more about the program, she thought to herself, “let’s see if we can get a donation."

Brown called the organization and they sent her two boxes of books and one box of pajamas.

“They were very easy to work with,” Brown said. She described her contacts in the Pajama Program as “wonderful” and “really sweet."

“It’s an amazing donation,” Brown said, adding pajamas and books are needed by many living in the BHA’s housing. “It’s a simple thing, but many kids do without because pajamas are expensive,” she said. Tell added, “books are expensive, too."

When the boxes arrived, Tell said, “Let’s have a party!"

This event was the first of its kind Tell and Brown put on at Ledgewood Heights, but they found it easy to generate excitement for the party.

“I made many phone calls” to invite parents and caregivers and their charges.

“A big group of kids came early,” Tell said. When she told them the party started at four o’clock, “they waited,” she said. “They were good."

At the event, Jemma Prue, age 4, and her brother Matthew Prue Jr., age 3, examined the books to make their selections while their mother supervised.

“I like coloring books. I also like books about animals,” Jemma Prue said, noting elephants as a favorite animal.

Pointing to the book he was about to take home, Matthew Prue Jr. said, “That book is my favorite."

His mother, standing nearby, informed those present that Matthew likes books about trucks, specifically fire trucks.

Jackie Palmer, age 7, chose two books from the table.

“One is new to me,” she said, referring to a book about animal families. The other, one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, was already familiar to her.

Palmer said she likes to read, and recently took a book out of her school library.

Although Palmer arrived dressed for the party in her own light-blue pajama set, before running out the door to join her friends at the playground she chose a new pair of pajamas from the collection to accompany her book selections.

Tell said she was pleased with the quality of the pajamas the Pajama Project sent, noting the “nice range of sizes.” Brown said the pajamas were not just for small children. “There were plenty of big” sizes.

“They sent us over 50 pairs of pajamas,” Brown said.

Although most of the work Tell and Brown do as part of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program is with adults, “we love to work with the kids, too,” Tell said.

When asked if they would do another Pajamas and Books Party for the children living in the Brattleboro Housing Authority’s homes, Tell and Brown emphatically answered in unison: “Yes!"

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Originally published in The Commons issue #305 (Wednesday, May 13, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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