by Dennis Dalman
What started out as a mere suggestion quickly turned into a reality, and that reality, dubbed Quarantine Storytime, is now a viral hit with housebound children and parents on Facebook.
Every weekday starting at noon, Mary Bruno, owner of Bruno Press, reads a storybook online from her printing shop in St. Joseph. She not only reads – she “acts” out the voice of the characters – kittens, dogs, sheep, a wolf, a bird and more. Rapt children are enchanted by every Bruno reading, and in many adults, too, Bruno awakens the little child inside them.
She got the idea from her niece, Samantha Bruno, who worked at Bruno Press with her aunt. Despite the virus crisis, Mary Bruno continues to work, although three of her four apprentices are ensconced at home, at least temporarily. One day, niece Bruno said to aunt Bruno, “Hey, why don’t you read a storybook every weekday online to kids who aren’t in school due to the virus?”
Since Bruno never met a good idea she didn’t like, she plunged right in, with her first reading on March 18.
“I was really scared because I’m an old person and don’t how to do these things,” Bruno said.
Her show, which lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, went viral. And that’s when Bruno’s fears increased. She realized she was being watched – live! – by thousands of children and parents, some as far away as Italy and Argentina, where Bruno knows some friends.
“I’m getting a little better at it each time,” she said. “And we’re having a lot of fun. I even interact with some of the children now and then. One day I said, ‘I see that Bella and Mack are watching.’ And I later learned those kids just flipped out. It’s kind of awesome. It’s really cool and a lot of fun. And despite my fears, I do enjoy it because I’m such a goofball, a real wacko.”
She also puts the shows on her Bruno Press archives. Some of her storybooks are “Dragons Love Tacos,” “The Gruffalo,” and “Pete the Cat.”
Bruno is still amazed by the heartwarming reactions of viewers. St. Cloud Floral sent her a thank-you bouquet, a woman in Kansas City sent her congratulations, and people are sharing the link far and wide. Some parents are even sending books to her shop via amazon.com. There’s always a bag of books outside her shop, waiting to be read. Bruno taught preschool at Little Saints Academy for a few years after it first opened. A teacher there, Amy Bonfig, invited Bruno to “raid” some of that schools books to feature on Quarantine Storytime.
Bruno is a good example of the creative, upbeat, reassuring connections being made in a time of crisis, when all of life seems to have been tipped upside down. People reach out to one another, they lend a hand, they do good deeds, and the collective kindness is a triumph that keeps at bay gloom and doom and fears caused by an invisible nasty virus.
And that is the main reason she decided to do the readings. She just knew many children and parents, housebound, must be having the jitters.
“I thought, hey, let’s go online and have a little fun,” she said.
And that is what happens, starting at noon every weekday – children and parents having lots of fun with Quarantine Storytime.
To tune in, go to Facebook shortly before noon each day Monday through Friday. Then on the search bar type in Bruno Press. The show will begin right at noon.