Many may never have heard of the children’s book “Billy Bloo Is Stuck In Goo,” including Elaine Volpe.
“It was recommended by my friend Bronson all the way down in Texas,” she announced at the start of an episode of her YouTube video series. “Not only did he recommend this awesome book, he actually purchased me a copy.”
Despite his distance from Bethel Park, young Bronson apparently is a big fan of “5 Minute Bed Time Story With Ms. Elaine” and wanted to make sure the 2017 book by Jennifer Hamburg is in her library’s collection.
Volpe is youth services department head for Bethel Park Public Library, where she and Dave Cable, public access director for the local station BPTV, team up to produce videos that help youngsters fall asleep as far away as Africa and Australia.
The episodes regularly draw viewership well into the thousands and can reach the realm of going viral, such as the count of more than 1.3 million for the reading of James and Kimberly Dean’s “Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues.”
“My goal was just to reach kids locally and provide some quality screen time for them,” Volpe said. “That was my intent, and then it kind of just took off and started gaining popularity. And before I knew it, I was getting comments from people in other states.”
She often gives shout-outs to youngsters who are viewing from afar. She prefaced the video featuring Margaret Wise Brown’s classic “Goodnight Moon” to a viewer from across the country.
“I’m reading stories to you from Pittsburgh, Pa., but I’m going to dedicate this story to a little girl in Spokane, Wash,” she said. “Thanks so much for watching, Sarah.”
Volpe credits much of the series’ popularity to the work of Cable, who came up with the idea in 2014. At the time, he was producing “Book Nook,” a show featuring the librarian that would run about 30 minutes.
“When we started doing a lot more YouTube programming for our channel, I thought that a shorter subject might work well, and that maybe breaking her show up and making it bedtime stories might catch a little more attention online,” he recalled. “And it really has.”
Cable, in turn, gives credit to the host.
“It is a great program for the community to have a representative like Elaine out there, presenting us in such a positive way, doing such nice outreach,” he said. “The comments we get are overwhelmingly positive and very complimentary.”
One comment was particularly meaningful, Volpe said.
“She’s just like Mister Rogers,” the comment reads.
Last month, members of two families from Columbus, Ohio, made it a point to visit Bethel Park Public Library.
“They both were passing through the Pittsburgh area on their way to vacation and asked if they could stop to meet me,” Volpe said. “It just tickled me to death, and I was happy to do it. It was very humbling.”
Her series now includes 69 videos featuring a variety of stories, from books today’s adults read as children – Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” for instance – to modern-day award winners such as Drew Daywalt’s “The Day the Crayons Came Home.”
While Volpe has a lot of fun reading to children, her objective is to serve in a complementary role.
“I want to provide quality screen time for them, but I never want it to replace one-on-one screen time with your children,” she said. “That’s such a special bonding time.”
View “5 Minute Bed Time Story With Ms. Elaine” on YouTube.