Stories and stickers, craft projects and ice cream. A police officer in full uniform.
What’s not to like at Chick-fil-A’s Thursday morning story time?
Preschoolers, accompanied by moms and caretakers, listen to stories, have a snack, make a craft, then finish up at an indoor play area.
Storytime coordinator Sherry Lochner, calm and unflappable, makes sure everything goes like clockwork. She usually chooses books and reads them, but that morning they had a special guest. Just after 9:30, Belleville Officer Jackie Laminack, her red hair in a neat bun, strolled in, perched on a stool in front of her audience and began “A Day in the Life of A Police Officer” by Linda Hayward.
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Officer Jackie stopped after each page to show the book’s illustrations.
When she read, “Last night, a bear escaped from the zoo,” eyes widened.
“That is something I hope I never have to work with,” Officer Jackie told her audience.
“I am going to be a zookeeper,” said a girl in a pink sweater.
“Keep the bears inside,” said Officer Jackie.
She talked about her job (“I wear a helmet. When I ride the patrol bike, I always wear my helmet.”) and patiently fielded questions, some relating to police work, some not.
“Do you like my ring?” a girl called out. “I got it from my grandma.”
Officer Jackie steered the conversation back to police dogs, then showed a picture.
“This one is named Laser, kind of a cool police dog name,” she said.
When a late arrival looked sad that the book was over, Officer Jackie reassured: “Hi, buddy, You are OK. We have plenty more to read.”
The former D.A.R.E. officer does a lot of events with children.
“I have two teenagers, one 13, one 14,” she said. “I still read to them. I love to read. Them, not so much. I read their school work, I also have small nieces and nephews, so a lot of reading goes on at my house.”
After story time, Officer Jackie brought in a spool of shiny police badge stickers to share.
Kim Lacktorin, of Belleville, pushed a high chair toward the front of the room so son Caleb, 2 1/2, could get his sticker and a close-up look at Officer Jackie.
“I come weekly,” said Kim. “I am a regular. We look forward to it. He knows every Thursday is Chick-fil-A day. He likes the storytelling and the craft.”
Jamalyn Koch’s 2-year-old Vincent arrived cranky, but not for long.
“A guy here just took him back there behind the counter and said, ‘Have an ice cream cone,’” said Jamalyn, of Millstadt.
Soon, Vincent was wearing an ice cream moustache and a smile. Parents and caretakers enjoy a free chicken biscuit or yogurt parfait.
Jennifer Morabito, of Belleville, learned about the event from a friend.
“It’s our first time. It’s really neat.”
Her 5-year-old Natalie and 2-year-old Luke were front and center, listening and commenting on Officer Jackie’s stories, then coloring alongside her.
Sherry, backed by managment at Chick-fil-A on Carlyle Avenue, expanded what was already in place.
“I started to do craft projects for kids,” she said. “Last year, I chose books related to letters of the alphabets. We went through the alphabet. When I go to the library, I find out which books are really popular. I also look on websites, Pinterest and blogs.”
Sherry, who teaches Sunday School to 2- and 3-year-olds at Faith Baptist in Belleville, describes herself as a former military brat, now married to military and the mother of two children, 20 and 16.
“I was born in Maine,” she said. “We’ve been here for four years. We claim North Carolina as our home, but don’t have a place we have lived much longer than three years.”
Among her favorite places to live? “Probably Japan or Europe.”
At the restaurant, she handles story time and other events as well as working the counter.
“We have a craft, send them home with snacks and a coloring page. For crafts, I look around on Pinterest and blogs, and find something related to what I am reading. Today, we are going to color a cut-out police car.”
Sherry also oversees bingo from 9 to 10:30 on Wednesdays.
“They are both quite popular,” she said of storytime and bingo. “Yesterday, we had our largest bingo which was 50 people.”
Debbi Purchase, a child care provider from Swansea, brought young sisters Lilly Bertran, 4, and Abby, 2, of O’Fallon.
“I was searching online for things to do in a 10-mile radius. It popped up. This is our third time. (Lilly) has school at noon. This gives us a lot to do in the morning.”
“I like the coloring,” said Lilly, accepting a snack of Goldfish crackers from Sherry.
“It’s a great hour,” said Debbie. “You get to meet other people.”
Hannah Vieira, of Scott Air Force Base, rounded up Ryland, 4, Keno, 2, and McLain, 1.
“They love it,” she said. “They do not want to leave.”
- When: 9:30 a.m. Thursdays
- Where: 2532 Green Mount Commons, Belleville, across from Southwestern Illinois College
- Contact: 618 257-9700
- Thursday’s theme: Turkeys