Using Christmas trees to get kids to turn over a new leaf


TOWNSEND — “I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson, our third president, said.

When he learned to read there was no Dr. Seuss or Charlotte’s Web or even an elusive Waldo. And while the Jefferson family did celebrate the December holiday, a Christmas tree was not part of the deal. The decorated conifers did not appear in American homes until after the bookish president died.

Children’s books and Christmas trees will be combined this season at the Townsend Public Library. Thirteen trees of all sizes and colors will be decorated, each with a theme of a different book.

Mary Foster, a volunteer at the library, is the visionary behind the plan. “I attended a museum exhibit last year around the holidays. I came up with the idea to have a celebrations of children’s literature,” she said.

The trustees liked the idea, she said. Library Director Stacy Schuttler, formerly the children’s librarian and the interim library director at the time, liked the idea too. Foster was off and running. “Mary’s done such great work in getting this all coordinated. It’s great having the person behind you doing the legwork,” Schuttler said.

The Amanda Dwight Library Fund paid for 10 trees. Three others were donated. Foster promises white trees, silver trees and traditional green trees. There will be trees on bookshelves and on the floor. The 15-foot tree decorated with gift requests by the Townsend Ecumenical Organization will once again reside in front of the glass window wall. That makes a total of 14 trees.

Both women worked to get individuals and organizations to decorate a tree. Foster sent out e-mails while Schuttler cornered visitors in the library. “Mary was the coordinator. I just sold people the idea,” Schuttler said.

All of the trees are spoken for. Scuttler’s daughter Zoey and her friend Anna Wespiser are planning on hand-sewing doughnuts for the “Arnie the Doughnut” tree. Lindsay Morand is decorating the Charlotte’s Web tree. After all, her famous relative, E.B. White, wrote the book. Several school groups and private clubs have claimed a tree.

The books were chosen by Schuttler and fellow children’s librarian Molly Benevides, known as Miss Molly to young Townsend library patrons. “It’s a good mix of some very well-known books and some great books that are newer,” Schuttler said.

Copies of the books are available at the library and will be on display with the trees.

Some aspiring decorators already have their trees at home as they prepare for the display. All the designers will get together at the library the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving to decorate and install the trees.

The official kick-off happens with a holiday family sing-a-long by David Polansky on Saturday, Dec. 4. Normally the library closes at 2, but hours will be extended until the beginning of the show at 4 p.m.

The trees will be on display into the new year. Next year others may have a chance at decorating a tree. “I hope this will be an annual event,” Foster said.