Reading program added to White Castle menu
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2014 8:46PM
Marko Sarich, 3, tests his luck at Slyder buckets during story time at White Castle, 10555 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago Ridge. | Steve Metsch/Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 29, 2014 2:11AM
Those who have frequented White Castle through the years probably have an interesting story or two to share, especially if they visited in the wee hours.
But on Wednesday morning, stories told at the White Castle in Chicago Ridge, 10555 S. Harlem Ave., were geared toward the wee people.
The first-ever “Summer Storytime at White Castle” was held at 10 a.m., after the morning rush and before the lunch crowd came in.
Thirteen children and some parents or guardians showed up to play games and create crafts that were based on the fast-food chain, and also to listen to stories read by Irene Ciciora, director of youth services for the Chicago Ridge Public Library.
“I have lots of stories. We’ll even do a story about who stole the Slyder from the Crave Case,” Ciciora said. “We’re going to have the french fry pool, the milk shake drop, the chicken ring ring toss, Slyder buckets. ... We’re having tons of fun here.”
The event was the idea of White Castle officials who want to reach out to the community, said Steve Weliczko, general manager of a restaurant officially known by corporate as Castle No. 56.
“No one’s ever heard of a story time at a White Castle,” he said.
White Castle this year started a summer reading program. Children are given White Castle bookmarks at libraries. Once they check out three books and have their bookmark stamped three times, they get a free kids meal, he said.
“We’re trying to give back to our community, so we offer incentives to the libraries, which encourages kids to read and rewards them,” Weliczko said. “We’ve handed out more than 5,000 bookmarks to the four libraries in this area.”
Story time is in keeping with other White Castle promotions such as having couples make reservations for romantic candlelight dinners on Valentine’s Day, visits by the Easter Bunny and Grandparents Day events, he said.
For those who missed Wednesday’s event, another story time is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 13.
Charlotte Sanders, of Bridgeview, learned of Wednesday’s debut event from her aunt, Maryann Baker, who works at the restaurant. Sanders brought daughter Madeline, 7, and son Chance, 5.
“It’s cool,” Madeline said as she and Chance prepared to make White Castle crowns.
Sanders said her children “were excited they got their first library cards this week.”
Reading also is important to Monika Sarich, of Chicago Ridge, who watched as sons Marko, 3, and Michael, 13 months, played Slyder buckets (loosely based on Bozo Buckets, for those who grew up in the 1960s or ’70s). Her children are fans of the library, she said.
“Marko’s been going to story time since he was 6 months old. We attend every event at the library. We are very library-friendly,” Sarich said. “Books are important to me. They play a big role in my life. I’m from Poland, and I read a lot. I want my kids to be book-friendly. Nowadays, with the games and TV shows and everything, kids don’t even know what books are.”
After the event, children enjoyed free cheesecake or brownies on a stick.
White Castle bookmarks for children are available at the Green Hills Public Library, 8611 W. 103rd St., Palos Hills; Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 S. Oxford Ave.; Palos Park Library, 12330 Forest Glen Blvd.; and Worth Public Library, 6917 W. 111th St.