Mother Goose Brings Rhymes to Life
by Lauren B. Kraft
"Do you live in a book?"
4-year-old Meghan Kloss of Bolingbrook asked Mary Jane Haley.
It's a question the former teacher and
librarian has been asked frequently during her 14 years as a
storyteller and entertainer.
Haley impersonates Mother Goose, singing
songs and acting out scenes with preschoolers and kindergartners.
After a performance at Friendship United Methodist preschool in
Bolingbrook this week, Meghan earnestly waited for an answer.
Haley, in a white ruffled apron and green
gingham bonnet and dress, leaned down to the preschooler and explained
that no, she lives in a house - she'd be "squished" if she tried to
live in a book.
"The language of children is make-believe
and pretend," Haley said.
At least five times a week Haley, a Downers
Grove resident, dons a Mother Goose costume and entertains preschoolers
and kindergartners in the area with her 40-minute program.
With stuffed animals and costume props on
hand, Haley held the attention of about 40 squirmy 4-year-olds with
rhymes such as "Hickory Dickory Dock" and "Humpty Dumpty" on Monday
The job is no sweat for Haley. She's
been preparing for the position since her two grown daughters were
"Mother Goose helped them get through
college," Haley said.
She also used the rhymes as a teacher and
"It's a really good way to get children back
into reading," Haley said. "It's age-appropriate, and it's a good
way to get children to rhyme."
Singing the songs with your children is a
fun way to bond, she said. She tries to demonstrate that with her
"It's a very subtle way of showing parents
what they can do at home with their children," she said.
Each of the Mother Goose rhymes appeals to
children because they are short, entertaining and relevant to
childrens' lives, she said.
"We live in an age where children are used
to watching TV," she said. "Things change quickly."
The subject matter of Mother Goose rhymes
makes it easier to grab children's attention. Children are
enthralled with stories about food such as pies, cakes and cookies;
animals such as lambs, cows and kittens; and the fear of bugs, sleeping
and spiders, Haley said.
During her performance, Haley brings
children to the stage for each rhyme. The preschoolers jockeyed
for the chance to don a pink bonnet and hold a toy baby lamb for the
rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or play a spider in "The Itsy Bitsy
"You are wonderful storytellers. Let's
clap for us," Haley said after the children sang a rhyme and used hand
motions to illustrate the story.
Becoming the character in a book helps
parents and educators hold the attention of small children.
"If you can move out of your adult mind and
into the minds of children... that's what children really love," she
Haley often performs for literacy nights,
kindergarten registration and Week of the Young Child events. She
does not perform at children's birthday parties. She appears
annually at McGee Elementary School.