Bedtime with the Deans

In the midst of freshmen orientation week’s characteristic chatter, the sudden silence in Wharton C Basement caught Wellness Coordinator Satya Nelms off guard.“‘Come, Boy, sit down, sit down and rest…’”

Abby Holtzman ’15 read from “The Giving Tree” as tea-tasting attendees quieted and clustered at her feet. Watching as the lines from Shel Silversteen’s classic lulled listeners into a stillness not often found at the college, Nelms resolved to recreate the magic of the moment during the stress-filled weeks of the school year. Bedtime Stories, her new monthly series, features faculty readings of beloved childhood favorites from “Green Eggs and Ham” to “Goodnight Moon.”

“I have a six-year-old and a four-year-old, and when I’m reading them a story, it reminds me of how young they are,” Nelms shared. “I was reminded that at the tea tasting — how young our students are. And I think with all your responsibilities and pressures, for one hour a month to get to be young again and hear a story read to you, is going to be wonderful to watch.”

Myrt Westphal, Associate Dean for Student Life, helped inaugurate the series with playful renditions of “Goodnight Moon” and “Frederick the Mouse” last night in Parrish Parlors. Pajama-clad Swatties spilled from the couches onto the floor to hear the old classic and quick favorite.

Readers are offered a list of suggested stories, but are free to supplement the recommendations with favorites of their own. Westphal chose “Frederick the Mouse” for its unique illustrations and plotline. The story’s hero shucks responsibility in order to more fully appreciate the beauty of the summer months. When winter comes, his community shares the food they gathered in exchange for Frederick’s stories and poems. Westphal believes the timeless moral — to “stop and smell the roses” — was particularly suited for her Swarthmore audience. She also sees Frederick as a specifically Swattie-like rodent, able to “see things that others don’t always comprehend.”

“The other mice don’t really understand what Frederick is doing,” she explained. “They’re caught up in the more mundane aspects of everyday life, whereas Frederick is more concerned with his mind and imagination.”

The monthly series will conclude with President Rebecca Chopp’s reading of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” — a Dr. Seuss classic and quintessential graduation tale — at the end of the school year. Readers in the intermittent months include Professor Keith Reeves from the political science department, Dean for Student Life Diane Anderson, and Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun.

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