Players from the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre Penguins hockey team visited the Back Mountain Memorial Library during Christmas with the Penguins to read Christmas stories to local children and promote the importance of literacy among youth.
Team mascot, Tux, came dressed in a festive Santa suit, red hat and all, shaking hands with children and the adults who accompanied them. He danced around and shook bells, conducting the crowd in a rendition of Jingle Bells. The children, as well as most adults, joined in singing the Christmas carol to get in the spirit for the evening's stories. Tux moved about the room, adding his own personal commentary and gestures to enhance each story, frequently causing outbursts of laughter from everyone, including the players.
Bobby Farnham and Jayson Megna, Penguins players who came to read to the children, explained that sometimes Tux is more exciting than they are.
[The kids] get excited to see us, but then Tux shows up and it's like we're in the background, Farnham said, laughing. He cracks me up, though. He's so funny.
Susan Wilson, from Akron, Ohio is in town visiting family and said her older grandson, John Crawford, has not only seen Tux at the Penguins' games, but also when the mascot attended Race for Education at Wycallis Elementary, where John is in kindergarten.
Wilson said John read books for his class to win tickets to see the Penguins play. Six-year-old John likes to read and always wants to check out Goosebumps books. Wilson also reads books, like Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series, to John's 3-year-old brother, Ryan. Both boys take ice skating lessons at the Coal Street Ice Rink where the Penguins practice.
Following the stories, raffle prizes were given out, including Penguins hats and bobblehead dolls. Matthias Ryder won two baseballs, his favorite part of the night. The 6-year-old said he isn't much of a reader, but he and his mom, Deani Ryder, explained that his favorites are Spongebob Squarepants books and Go, Dog, Go! which he keeps in his backpack.
The audience was allowed to ask questions of the players. Both Farnham and Megna said they enjoy meeting and talking with their young fans because it reminds them of when they looked up to players as kids.
You're around older [fans] a lot and maybe people that don't get excited over simple things like reading a book. That's kind of refreshing that people get excited over the little things like that, said Megna.
The players kept stressing to the children to keep reading and both think it's extremely important for children to begin reading at a young age, especially to help with learning in school when other factors may get in the way.
With all the gaming systems and the electronics [today], there are so many other things. Reading takes a backseat, said Farnham.
In the program's sixth year, Janet Bauman, children's and young adult librarian, explained, The people love it and said the event draws on all of the Penguins fans in the Back Mountain.
We get people in that have never stepped foot in our library before. Once they come in, they get a card and they are patrons, she said.