Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | October 25, 2010

Stories with Ms. Tori: Ginter Park children’s services

Eighteen children and nearly a dozen parents sat on the alphabet rug in Ginter Park Library to hear stories with Ms. Tori.  Tori Scott Nunnally, children’s services library associate, greeted the toddlers and infants by name, quizzing one boy on Spanish vocabulary while they waited to begin.  They sang in Spanish; they sang in English; they sang active songs, getting faster and faster, the children erupting in giggles as Tori zipped through the motions of 5 Little Frogs, her voice getting higher and faster with each round.  Tori is a fount of energy, the type of person you want leading a room of twenty toddlers.  I swear, she could wear the kids out.

When the children had all their wiggles out, they sat at Tori’s feet or in parents’ laps, and Tori opened Swim! Swim! by LerchThe children quieted, except when they made “glurb, glurb, glurb” noises with Tori as she read about bubbles floating up the fish tank.  At the story’s end, they applauded and laughed and requested the next story.  Some children lifted their choices off the table, and Tori encouraged them to flip through the books with a whispered reminder, “Be gentle.”  Tori and the other librarians encourage the uninhibited book browsing and use puppets and sing nursery rhymes and make sound effects to create a positive association with reading, a job done successfully based on the children’s reactions.

Earlier in September, I met Tori outside Stir Crazy Café.  We’d never met, but her Where the Wild Things Are T-shirt, dangling bird earrings, and library copy of The Hunger Games gave her away.  She looked up, smiled, marked her place with a Summer Reading Program bookmark, and we began a pleasant hour discussing Ginter Park’s programming.

An impact on patrons’ lives

Tori shared a story that still has me wiping my eyes.  Among Tori’s young patrons is a three-year-old girl who’s been to story time since before she could walk or talk.  She was a regular participant until this year when doctors diagnosed her with cancer.  Tori visited her in the hospital, taking books from the library, but chemotherapy ended their visits.  Now in isolation, the girl no longer has access to library books or story times or singing with friends, but she continued to ask for them, so her mother called Tori.  The mother contacted Hopecam, a program that uses webcams to connect homebound children to their school and family at no cost to the participant or school.  Tori and the staff at Ginter Park got approval for Hopecam to broadcast story time on a closed network, so their young patron can see her friends and listen to stories.  “It is a good program, and I’m glad we can be a part of it,” Tori said.  A library partnership with Hopecam is a first for the organization and city libraries, but its reception is warm.  “All the parents and the kids are embracing it,” Tori said.  “I am really happy we can do something to keep things as normal as possible for her.”

A difference in the community

Story time isn’t the only program making a difference in the Ginter Park area.  Tori visits daycares, schools, and community events.  As part of the First Book Grant Program, Tori presents story time at a local daycare and offers extension ideas for teachers.  Each child receives a copy of the book to take home and read with her family.  You can read more about Richmond Public Library’s literacy outreach in an earlier interview with Krista Dawson, literacy outreach coordinator.

Tori visits neighboring elementary schools to discuss what the library has to offer students, parents, and teachers.  “The library can be quite a resourceful tool to supplement teacher’s materials, especially in times where budgets are being cut,” Tori said.  “I greatly enjoy working with teachers by pulling books and movies that follow their current curriculum themes.”

At the time of our meeting, children had returned to school, and Tori filled me in on how the Summer Reading Program worked with area elementary schools.  Children and teens who read consistently during the summer maintain or advance their reading level, and students from Linwood Holton Elementary School earn bragging rights.  For the third year in a row, more students from Linwood Holton completed the Summer Reading Program than any other school in the city, a number that might have helped Linwood Holton exceed the reading progress levels set by the city. “I am really fortunate in Ginter Park, because Mr. Hudson, the principal at Linwood Holton Elementary, feels strongly about the kids reading over the summer,” Tori said.  “I submit to him all the names of students from his school that did the program and finished, and he, out of pocket, buys them a trophy, and at the first awards assembly, I go and we hand out the trophies to all the kids.”

Though most participants are students, the Summer Reading Program, like story times and events, includes all ages.  “We open [Summer Reading] up to all ages, because we want to build a love of reading in a family, and we want the whole family reading together,” Tori said.  Summer Reading prompted parents to bring their children to Ginter Park, sometimes multiple days a week.  Two siblings, one year apart, raced each other to read more books, sharing what they were reading, coming in each day.  One read 291 books in 6 weeks.

As a library associate, Tori is out in the community several times a year.  “I also try to attend or assist with various community events, such as National Night Out on MacArthur Avenue this past August.  It is a great way for people in the community to interact and have fun in a safe and friendly environment.”  She attends monthly advisory board meetings at Ginter Park to support the library advisory board as they help fundraising and sponsor special library events.

An abundance of resources

Tori was quick to rave about the staff at Ginter Park, their relationship with the patrons, relationships with each other, and their commitment to the work.  “Without specializing, we are kind of specialists in different areas,” she said.  Remmie Chew, Jr., library assistant, is the go-to man for faith, politics, sports, and all things Richmond.  He also received certification as a notary public to meet the need at Ginter Park.  Tori praised Darlene Perry, library assistant, for taking personal service to another degree; she knows visitors’ names, reminds them of their books’ due dates, and recognizes left belongings to return them to their owners.  Library assistant Miesha Shavers-Thomas is full of ideas, such as an urban fiction book club that attracts local high school students.  Ms. Jacqueline Alexander knows everything rules and regulations, and uses her knowledge to acquire resources, such as interlibrary loans, for patrons.  “She keeps us moving,” Tori said.  “She keeps us going.”  As the recession left more people in the Richmond area unemployed, Ms. Alexander took training courses on applying for unemployment and places to get jobs so the library staff can assist patrons.  The branch managers, both temporary manager Clay Dishon and on-loan manager Kerry Phillips, received accolades for being great reference librarians.  “Everybody is friendly and committed to helping when patrons come in,” Tori said.

A love for reading

Remember I mentioned Tori was reading The Hunger Games the day I met her?  She was not reading it to prepare for the Mockingjay craze, but for Ginter Park teens.  Many of her patrons are transitioning into YA titles, and she only recommends books she’s read.  This personalization makes her picks hit.  One mom said it’s hard to pick books for her reluctant-reader, middle-schooler son, but everything Tori’s recommended for him has been spot on.

The children in Ginter Park want to read.  An older boy came in with his grandmother, who suggested computer games to occupy his time.  No grandma, he said, I don’t want to play on the computer; I want to read.  It’s not difficult to see why children want to read with the role models they have at home, at the local elementary schools, and at Ginter Park.  Tori is passionate about books and her work.  As we talked, her gestures increased to wider sweeps of her arms and clasped hands, as if she embraced the library and its patrons.

“A three-year-old who comes to my story times all the time comes running in when I was shelving books, and she bear hugs my thigh – she’s three, it was more like a teddy bear hug – [and] she goes, ‘Ms. Tori.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And she says, ‘Hold on.’ And she runs over to the picture book section, and she goes [inhales deeply], “I missed you books.”

Tori wrapped up story time with balls and bubbles.  The children shared the balls, they danced in the bubbles, but they didn’t bemoan clean-up time.  Instead, they thanked Tori and zoomed toward the children’s section for more books.  Tori turned to me, smile lighting her blue eyes, and said, “I have the best job!”


  1. […] Ms. Tori October 27, 2010 · Posted in ginter park library, kids, library · by RossRiver City Fiction has a great look at Ms. Tori, a children’s service library associate. Tori runs a story time at the Ginter Park Library and several other reading related services:Tori […]

  2. What a great profile on a great asset to Richmond Public Library- you were spot on! And, I learned some new things about Tori too!

    • Thanks, Krista. I hope we can talk again about your work.

  3. I would be very interested on follow-up in this program. That is to say, a study tracking the future level of education or graduation rate of the participants in this program. Or perhaps a study even tracking their library use.

    Enthusiasm and energy: perhaps America’s two greatest assets. Ms. Tori seems an embodiment of those positives, and, therefore, perfect for leading.

    Enjoyed the article.

    • Brigitte,
      That follow-up is a fascinating idea. Do you conduct such studies?

      Enthusiasm and energy, you described Tori and Ginter Park’s programming perfectly and succinctly.

      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Tori and the library staff at Ginter Park are providing a connection for the community, something that starts early!

    • Harriet,
      You are right about the connection starting early. Based on anecdotal evidence, the connections started young often seem to last through life. Thanks.

  5. Ms. Tori is always full of energy and creative ideas. She is a wonderful inspiration to children and other library staff. Richmond Library and its patrons are so blessed to have such wonderful staff and children’s programs such as weekly storytime (for babies, toddlers and preschool age), summer reading program, and monthly special programs. The library is a wonderful and free resource.

    • Heidi
      I agree completely! I hope to write about more of the entertaining and innovative programs going on in Richmond Public Libraries. I’m excited to say that Ms. Tori agreed to give River City Fiction book recommendations for children and teens. Look for those around the holidays.

  6. […] this fall, I had the pleasure of talking with Krista Dawson and Tori Scott Nunnally from Richmond Public Library about their literacy outreach programs.  This weekend, Richmond book […]

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