ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The REAL Program of Lynn participants Andre Rodriguez, Ella Nijuga, Yonardy Baez, Joselyn Landaverde, Chris Chavez, Crystal Fernandez, and Stacy Mendez listen to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy read from the book “Where’s There’s Trouble, There’s Hope” in Lynn City Hall.
By Michele Durgin
LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy entertained youngsters at City Hall on Monday with a reading of “Where There’s Trouble, There’s Hope.”
The children, ages three to eight, are participants in Reading and Educational Assistance for Learning (REAL). The Lynn-based nonprofit’s mission is to to boost literacy by providing books, homework assistance and fun activities for children.
The book, co-authored by Sheila Duncan of Marblehead and Melanie Fleming and illustrated by Joan Samuelson, both from Lynn, centers around the notion of never giving up.
It tells the story of the star character, Trouble The Dog, and introduces a new puppy named Hope. Duncan created the character of Trouble the Dog in 2006 after her niece, Kendra, lost her dad, grandmother “Nonnie” and the family’s golden retriever “Irish,” all within a short amount of time.
The inspiration to write the series began when Duncan saw a TV show about children with cancer, and tried to change the station before her niece became upset. Instead, Kendra decided she wanted to do something to help the kids. She drew a picture of a small, grey puppy and named him Trouble.
Duncan took the image and turned it into the star character of her book “Here’s Trouble,” which is the first in the series. A big hit, she later turned the character into a plush toy to give to children in need of comfort.
Jan Plourde, REAL’s executive director, accompanied the group, along with their counselors, on their visit to the mayor’s office.
“This is an enriching experience and it’s important for the children to learn that there are many kind and helpful people in their city,” she said.
The mayor talked with her attentive audience throughout the reading session. She stopped often and asked questions about the plot, inviting the children to share their thoughts. The group was especially delighted when Kennedy fist bumped a few of the front row listeners during a post reading discussion.
“The book’s message is timeless,” the mayor said. “I’m so glad that we got to share this special story. The expressions on their faces were priceless, especially when each of them received a copy of the book and a Trouble the Dog stuffed animal.”
The books and stuffed animals were donated by Alan and Suzanne Rothenberg of Marblehead.
“Alan and I are happy to sponsor today’s program,” she said. “We are big advocates of successful literacy programs and we love kids. It was a joy to be here.”
Noel Dirouche, 5, a pre-kindergarten student at the Washington School, said she was excited to tell her family about her trip to City Hall.
“I’m going to share my book with my brother, Isiah, and I can’t wait to learn how to read,” she said. “I want to read books for the rest of my life.”
Volunteer chaperone Kim Staples, 52, a Lynn teacher, said she is impressed with the REAL program.
“Jan’s program is terrific,” she said. “She is making so many connections with young children and their families. Literacy is an important issue in today’s world and people like Jan, who put their heart and soul into the cause, are making a difference every day.”
Bridget Turcotte contributed to this report.