During their lunch break Tuesday, Meiners and other PTHS Speech Team members made trips to Morgan, McNabb and Clark elementary schools to share their favorite childhood storybooks with students as part of the city's first Paducah Storytelling Week.
Meiners jumped at the chance to return to Clark, her elementary alma mater. She brought along a copy of "The Wide-Mouthed Frog" by Keith Faulkner, a favorite book of hers that her grandmother read to her as a child. Meiners walked straight to Carner's classroom where she was greeted with a hug from her former teacher and a room full of excited first graders.
Carner had a chair for Meiners already set up for story time, and the kids gathered around it as Meiners took her seat. They hung on Meiners' every word as she turned the pages of her pop-up book, using different voices for each character and encouraging the kids to stick out their tongues like frogs, snap their beaks like birds, and wriggling their whiskers like mice. When the story was over, Carner's students broke out of their quiet, story time voices to shout "Read it again! Read it again!" Meiners did.
"It was kind of like coming home," she said. "It was really neat to be able to say, that was my desk! I was one of them once! I know there's a better word for it ... nostalgic, but happier."
Scenes like this one played out in other Clark Elementary classrooms, as well as at Morgan and McNabb, getting kids excited about storytelling: one of the main goals of Paducah Storytelling Week.
"I think having storytelling week here is important because it helps with the creativity of students in our schools," said Mayor Gayle Kaler. At the Sept. 2 Paducah City Council meeting, Kaler presented a proclamation to PTHS Speech Team members Meg Hancock and Palmer Stroup declaring Sept. 8-14 as Paducah Storytelling Week.
Kaler said she hopes Storytelling Week will grow to become another big part of the "creative city" of Paducah.
"Encouraging children to use their imaginations creates a better learning environment," Kaler said. "And storytelling is such a great way to use your imagination. It's a way to share your history."