“Miss Becky” Loved Storytime as a Child, Now Leads Storytime for New Generation

As a child growing up in St. Joseph, Mo., Becky Carleton went regularly with her mother to library Storytimes, where she learned the fundamentals of language, reading and early childhood literacy. She still has incredible memories of the librarian who led those Storytime sessions.

“She was so wonderful. We called her Auntie Bea. She was one of my favorite people in the world,” Carleton recalls.

Now, Carleton leads Johnson County Library Storytimes as “Miss Becky” – instilling a love for reading and learning in a whole new generation of children.

It was a long and winding path to get to this point. Carleton’s family moved to Johnson County when she was in 7th grade. She didn’t enjoy formal schooling and worked as a nanny and at other jobs. But she had always seen libraries as sanctuaries of knowledge, satisfying her curiosity as a self-taught learner. She got a job in 1993 in the Periodicals Department at Antioch Library, launching what has become a wonderful career.

“It made me feel I was doing something good for the community and myself,” Carleton says. “My co-workers loved language and learning. They were my people.”

She eventually became an Interlibrary Loan clerk at Central Resource Library while earning her associate’s degree from JCCC. She also met her husband, Will Carleton, when both worked at Central. The couple married in 2004. Their daughter Kat was born in July 2006.

Carleton accompanied Kat to Johnson County Library Storytimes for nearly five years – “It was our weekly thing, just like with my mom and me” – until Kat went off to kindergarten. After that, Carleton still craved the Storytime experience.

At Central, Carleton had become an adult information specialist in 2005. She crossed paths with Youth Services Librarians Angel Tucker and Laura Hunt, who urged her to pursue her Storytime dream.

So in March 2015 she got a job as a youth information specialist at Oak Park Library, learning from Angelica Reiff, Bradley Debrick and other early childhood literacy masters. In leading her own Storytime programs, “Miss Becky” also brings the perspective of someone who participated as a child and as a parent. She knows what works to enchant and enlighten.

Storytimes had to be re-imagined during the pandemic. The youth services staff pivoted to online programming for the past two years via Facebook Live. One upside is providing access to many families who, pre-pandemic, couldn’t attend Storytimes in person.

Recently, a family approached Carleton at the Lenexa Recreation Center. They were among her regulars, but she had never actually met them. “They had only ever seen my online Storytime,” she explained. “They were so grateful.” The mom and dad shared how their one-year-old and six-year-old kids loved the sessions, and that was wonderful feedback.

Carleton currently leads Storytime OnDemand, which families can watch anytime. The short videos feature songs, rhymes and finger plays that demonstrate the 6 By 6 Ready to Read skills. Carleton will also lead Storytime on June 4 to kick off the Summer Reading program.

Working with the Library’s youngest patrons is endlessly gratifying. “I love helping them learn to read,” Carleton said. “Once you learn how to read you can do anything, and I’m a testament to that.”

She also enjoys sharing reader advisory recommendations with adult patrons and gets great satisfaction working with teenagers.

Even though she’s been with Johnson County Library for more than 29 years, she still learns something new every day. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere of growth,” she said,  "being able to learn about anything, without judgment.”