Penelope the Purple Puppet Promotes Reading

Penelope the Purple Puppet Promotes Reading
Posted on 10/18/2020
Featured Photos: 1. Ms. Lee Ann Smith sits with Penelope in her school's library. 2. Students gather with Ms. Lee Ann Smith and Penelope in Ms. Priscilla Nutt's second grade classroom.

By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications Dept.

Students gather with Ms. Lee Ann Smith and Penelope in his Ms. Priscilla Nutt's second grade classroom.

At Glen Arden Elementary, a cute and mischievous marionette named Penelope helps students get excited about reading and teaches important life lessons about self control and COVID-19 prevention.
 The puppet’s excitable personality and antics have been driven by Media Specialist Lee Ann Smith for more than 16 years, bringing countless smiles to students’ faces.

“Penelope has become our library mascot. She helps bridge [the students’] relationship to me, and thereby their relationship to reading and to books,” said Smith. “I want my students to see reading as exciting and fun, and a way to travel to other places — a bridge to whatever they want to be.”

As students returned to the school in reduced numbers, they weren’t able to gather and explore the media center like they used to. Instead, Smith organized a school-wide interest survey so she could research and handpick a customized stack of books for each student. This week, Smith delivered those books to her students, who were thrilled to see Penelope by her side, now wearing a protective face covering.

“It took a while for Penelope to get used to wearing a mask, but she’s adapting just like all of us are,” said Smith. “I think she’s setting a good example in that way.”

Penelope is a silent character, but likes to dance. Sometimes she forgets her library manners, giving the students the opportunity to correct her. The kids laugh while teaching Penelope to care for books, calm down, clean up messes, listen to those who are talking, and other relational skills.

“I think Penelope helps them feel more comfortable because she’s cute and fuzzy, and even a little bit naughty,” Smith said with a smile. “She’s like my alter ego and we can all relate to her.”