Emma England is Independence’s “story lady.”

She is also the Mid-Continent Public Library’s early literacy associate, traveling through Eastern Jackson County interacting with youngsters while reading them books.

At a recent Third Thursday Play Date event at Independence Center, it was difficult to tell who was having more fun – England or her young fans.

“It’s funny,” England said, “but every once in awhile I will be shopping or doing something at a store and a youngster will run up to me and say, ‘You’re the story lady.’ I’ll get a big hug, and it makes my day.”

It’s the perfect way to thank England for making a difference in the lives of so many young people.

“My kids love to come up on story days, because they love to listen to the stories and interact with (England) and the other kids,” said Molly, who had two youngsters in the audience at Independence Center.

One youngster continually went up to England to help her turn the pages of her book.

“That’s when you know they are engaged and enjoying what we’re doing,” England said. “The smiles on their faces – and the smiles on their parents’ faces – let me know we’re doing something beneficial and fun.”

Before England went to work for the library system, she was a teacher.

“I loved the classroom,” she said, “but my real love has always been the library. So I went back to school, and now I have my dream job. I can’t even tell you how much I love going to Independence Center, different branches of the library, schools – all over Eastern Jackson County – reading to young people.”

And she makes sure her books are interactive and fun.

“When I read about an animal that might go, ‘EEEEK!’ I make that sound – and the kids will giggle and go ‘EEEEK!’ right back at me. Or, if I am reading a book and say, ‘Don’t push this button (within the pages of the book) they all rush up to push the button.

“I know people think that kids don’t like to read as much, but the interaction I have with the youngsters tells me that simply isn’t correct. They love story time and interacting with me. When we’re done, they will say, ‘Miss Emma, can we have another story?’ That is the ultimate compliment.”

Well, that, and being called “the story lady.”

“That’s a great compliment, too,” she added. “Those are the special moments you don’t forget – at a book reading event or in a grocery store.”