Byline: Bob Smith
Some people will do some pretty unusual things to convince kids to read.
And a lot of those folks are going to be gathered in one place this week as Naperville Public Library launches its annual Children's Book Week festivities.
The celebration opens today in conjunction with the dedication of a sculpture honoring "The Cat in the Hat," which has found a temporary home outside the downtown Nichols Library.
Over the course of the next several days, the city's three libraries will offer clowns, contests, raffles and more to help toddlers to third-graders discover - or rediscover - all the wonderful places books can take them.
Program coordinator Mary Bannon says the goal of the campaign, sponsored by the Children's Book Council, is "to get kids and their parents excited about the written word ... that magical feeling."
Which is easy for Bannon to say because, despite all the hard work already behind her and all that still lies ahead, she's still not the one who's going to be wearing The Cat in the Hat jumpsuit.
Hats, cats and Elvis
Meet James Irwin, a children's librarian at Nichols.
He loves reading. He loves kids. He loves reading to kids.
When he sits down to share a story with youngsters in the children's department, he never hesitates to don one of those floppy Cat hats. Truth be told, it's kind of his trademark.
"I think it brings another dimension to my storytimes," he says. "It adds a fun element."
It also helps the kids relax and feel comfortable, he says, because they recognize the hat and the Dr. Seuss character it represents.
So when library leaders were looking for someone to dress as a full-blown Cat in the Hat for the sculpture dedication this afternoon, Irwin was as close to a logical choice as they could find.
You know: slip into the costume, greet the kids, hand out a few goodies.
Irwin says he got his first look at his outfit on Thursday and was just a wee bit surprised to find it's a one-piece suit. He was undeterred.
"It should be fun," he says.
Of course, the last guy to wear a one-piece jumpsuit and think it was fun was Elvis, only his suit had sequins and he was singing "Suspicious Minds" in Vegas instead of answering questions about Thing One and Thing Two at Nichols.
Still, when you care about kids and the importance of reading, sometimes you've got to be willing to step out of your comfort zone - especially since you've already got the hat.
So how exactly will Irwin prepare to become The Cat?
"I'm not a method actor," he says. "I will just try to be myself. …