Dorri Partain

You’re never too young for the classic combination of a hot drink and a good book. For families that stop into PH Coffee (2200 Lexington Ave.) on Monday mornings, the neighborhood coffee shop hosts a story time led by volunteer readers.

According to Afton Bradley, PH Coffee’s events coordinator, anywhere from three to eight kids, along with a family member, settle down for a story in the shop’s children’s area. Volunteers are welcome to choose a book from the shop’s lending library or bring their own favorite.

“This is what I typically tell volunteers when they reach out and ask about becoming a reader; our story time is very low key,” Bradley explained. “All we ask is that you read to the kiddos, engage with them as much as appropriate and be an open, kind individual! We are most importantly trying to create a safe and fun space for kids and families to come and enjoy the coffee shop. You get to make the time your own story time.” In return for volunteering, the baristas on duty will offer the reader a free drink. In addition to coffee, the shop has a variety of teas and other hot and cold beverages to
choose from.

“The volunteers always love the free drink and we love being able to thank them in that way,” Bradley said. “I think when people initially reach out they don’t know about the perk, then they are very excited to hear about it.” For volunteers that handle story time at least twice, there is an added bonus of a $10 gift card, which is redeemable for drinks or food items.

The children’s area inside PH Coffee is cheerfully decorated and stocked with a variety of toys. Owner Eric Russell conceived the area as an additional space where families and friends could meet and mingle, or make new friends too. The story time component was added once the area was completed, but was restructured earlier this year following a hiatus during COVID.

Thanks to the free drink perk, Bradley has been able to line up volunteers to keep it a weekly event, and a few have turned into regulars.

“If there is not a volunteer scheduled, I will read for that week,” Bradley said. “There have been a few occasions when I have not been available so we just let the families that show up know. People are typically understanding.”

Once a month, KC Healthy Kids, a local organization that promotes healthy eating and mental wellness for area children, has sent staff members that share stories about coping with various situations and then each child gets a copy of the book to take home. October’s book, read by Shelby Mocherman, was NowMaps Jr., Adventure Stories to Help Young Kids Navigate Everyday Challenges & Grow in Caring and Kind Ways by Daniel Siegel, MD.

As the children’s area filled with toddlers and their mothers, Mocherman engaged with those following the story as others played with nearby toys.  The outreach program and books are provided through a grant, with the concept of sharing books that promote social emotional learning so children can learn through what they practice. Mocherman, a licensed master social worker, is also available to offer other services to parents in attendance.

Bradley and Mocherman attributed the good turnout that grew to eight children by the end of the story to the nice fall weather that day. One mother, who brought her children ages 3 and I, noted that while she traveled from Brookside to attend, she wasn’t aware of any coffee shops in her neighborhood that offered a weekly story time. KC Healthy Kids will present their next story time program on Saturday, November 18 at 10 a.m., as Bradley has been hoping to offer more times to both families and volunteers that may not be able to attend on a weekday.

Story time at PH Coffee is held each Monday, beginning at 10 a.m. For more information or to volunteer, contact Bradley by email at or stop in during regular business hours. For a complete list of events, visit their website at