Certain places just feel as comfortable for you and your kids as a friend’s home. For some, it’s their kid’s daycare or preschool. For us, it’s our local library. It’s the same library where I listened to my grandmother lead story time. I borrowed the very same copies of “The Dear America Diaries” that are still on the shelves. I learned how to do research at the tables in the community room. That library has a history for me, so it was a natural choice to introduce it to my kids.
We started attending story time last year (when she was 2 and a half) as a weekly opportunity for my daughter to interact with other children, since we aren’t beginning preschool until she is four. I also wanted her to start learning the “soft skills” she would need for school, such as participating in a group, listening to an adult besides her parents, and paying attention for a reasonable length of time. Story time at the library was the perfect fit for us for several reasons. First, because I could attend with her, but let her participate as independently as she felt comfortable. Second, it’s free. Let me emphasize that one. . . It costs no money! Free! Third, it’s a drop-in type program, so you aren’t committed to attending every week, even though you’ll want to. This was big for us since my son was a newborn over the winter. We stayed home during flu season and picked back up once it got a little warmer. And fourth, it was an excuse for us to get out of the house each week for something fun!
Story time was even better for my daughter than what I had hoped. Her attention skills and pre-literacy skills have really improved over the course of the last year. The story time leader really engages the children in the story, sometimes encouraging them to sit and listen quietly, other times encouraging them to participate with their voices or with small, themed toys. Sprinkled throughout the stories are interactive songs and finger plays to keep the children interested. My daughter sings her story time songs a lot at home! At the end of the themed story time, there is sometimes a coordinated craft! My daughter loves having something tangible (besides the bagful of books we check out) to bring home from story time!
The librarians make us feel so welcome each time we enter. They notice changes in the kids, like how much they’ve grown, how much better their communication is, or what new motor skills they’ve mastered (my son crawling, for example). Any time I am looking for a book on a specific topic, the staff is always ready with suggestions. The library is set up so that the children’s section is on one floor and the adult section is on another, which allows the kids to explore the aisles, play with toys, and even get a little rambunctious without disturbing other patrons. The librarians seem to love watching the kids learn to interact with each other and have fun, and they are also understanding that they are just kids. There will be tantrums, rough housing, and whining, but I have never felt anything but support from the staff as I either help my toddler through her big emotions or say “well, we have to leave. We’ll try again next week.”
On top of the wide selection of books and the educational story time, the library also offers DVD rentals, toys and puzzles for the kids to enjoy there, and a great summer reading program! We participated this past summer and earned prizes (usually ice cream!) for completing reading-related activities at home each week. They also had several free programs, like a carnival, ice cream party, and a touch-a-truck event! The great thing is, this is just one of the many great libraries in our area! As the weather turns cooler soon, we will explore other libraries nearby for more opportunities to play and learn. We’ll stick with our favorite library for our weekly story time, though! No sense in messing with a good thing!