Education Media and Reading

Yianni Stamas Reflects on the History of “Lights Camera Read” and its Evolution through Performing and Workshopping at a Series of NYPL Branches in NYC

Theater Group Performance

Yianni Stamas revealed to us that “Lights Camera Read” was originated many years ago by him and his wife along with other performers in the Inwood Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library. The event was so well received by both kids and their parents, the troupe was asked to do another magic and reading experience.

Other Troupe Appearances

The Stamas family consisting of Yianni and Alison, along with their then toddler daughter, did a couple of different free shows at the Washington-Heights-Inwood “Y” that were open to the public and included entertainment, librarians talking about reading programs plus fun activities and free stuff giveaways.

The NYPL Library Magical Mystery Tour

Lights Camera Read evolved over a period of years and ultimately became a fixture in 3 other NYPL branches including one in midtown, another on the east side, and finally a branch in the upper west side.

Workshopping to Making a Difference

“Lights Camera Read” had gone from being a kid favorite, to now being an ongoing media workshop done in partnership with the late Rodger Taylor. Also, during this period pre COVID, the Magic Neighbors Theater Group partnered with Lights Camera Read to do a special show for homeless children in a Bronx branch of the NYPL.

Fun Experiences

The magic tricks, snow person costumes and other items used to entertain event goers have been traded in for other methods of creating community. The motivation for the Stamas’ in terms of creating “Lights Camera Read,” “Magic Neighbors” and other community building events, was not just to get communication going in their neighborhood, but was also to have fun experiences that their then toddler daughter could participate in.


A Bit of Lights Camera Read History


Lights Camera Read was a popular NYC community educational program that was done over a period of years at locations of the New York Public Library throughout NYC. This occurred with the help of partnerships with Video Film Web, the Magic Neighbors Players, and the Platinum PIAs Awards.

Media Workshops

Lights Camera Read was sponsored by the New York Public Library as a workshop for teens who came to the library to study after school. Weekly classes focused on community service as well as the development of writing and media creation abilities.

Platinum PIAs Nominees

The workshops were co-taught by the founder of Lights Camera Read in tandem with the much beloved writer/librarian, the late Rodger Taylor. Some of the workshop participants were later nominated for Platinum PIAs as seen on the library’s website.

Magic Show

There was also an affiliated traveling family show for younger kids that was called The Magic Neighbors Players and included stories, magic tricks, and fun costumes. This troupe performed at various branches of the New York Public Library. One memorable performance was done at a library branch in the Bronx for homeless kids. The Magic Neighbors have their own website. Plus, since 2009 the Manhattan Kids Guide has been sharing information about the troupe.

Lights Camera Read Mission

The overall mission of “Lights Camera Read” is to inspire kids to read more, specifically books that were later made into movies. The phrase “The book was better than the movie” is a common reaction by those who read the book prior to seeing the motion picture. The two mediums of books and movies were compared looking at their differences in terms of components used for storytelling.

Student Produced Works

An important part of “Lights Camera Read” sessions, were the videos that were shot of stories written by the students themselves such as at this staged reading that was done by teen participants at a Midtown New York Public Library branch.


The birth of Lights Camera Read is attributed to a community costume parade that occurred in 2009 along Broadway Boulevard in NYC, specifically Northern Manhattan. The event was staged by the husband-and-wife team who also did a succession of Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood events that followed this one. The procession that started it all consisted of over 100 Inwood and Washington Heights kids and their parents and was covered by local media outlets including New York 1. The procession would stop at prearranged community businesses whereupon the owners would give the kids treats. It was the bringing together of community and local businesses.



Our History is of Education

Working with the NYPL

Lights Camera Read got its start as a site for family activities in upper Manhattan, then landed a contract with the New York Public Library and participated in a teaching program at a library branch in midtown Manhattan.

Our Neighbors are Magic Neighbors

The Library collaboration for hire grew out of the Magic Neighbors theater and circus arts theater company, the head members of which became hired for teaching the educational program along with a full fledged librarian.

And the Direction Changes

Sadly, the librarian who was Lights Camera Read’s educational partner passed away, so now Lights Camera Read creates its own opportunities.

Education Platinum PIAs

Innovation in the Creation of Workshops

Workshops at the New York Public Library before the Coronavirus.

One of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes is:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is something that we have always strived for. When working with students we not only teach them through workshops skills that are used in the real world, but we also make it a priority to encourage them to be creative in the seeking of new ideas.

US Make a Difference

Many say that nothing is new, which to a certain degree may be true, but it is only through the work of innovators that new ways of doing things comes true. Some of the students we have taught in the past went on to win Platinum PIAs Awards, now called “US Make a Difference” Awards.”


We do not have as many workshops as we used to, and many of them are online, but we continue to push forward with the hope that our students go on to do what they really want to do and innovate along the way!