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It is National Library Week! National Library Week has been hosted since 1958, and is sponsored by The American Library Association. The theme this year is, “Lives change @ your library®.” In honor of the week, and this theme, I want to share the programming that is offered at my local library. The last few years the library has been a lifesaver for me, and is one of my few outlets for social interaction in these toddler years. I think it impacts many people in my small rural town in wonderful ways. 

Not all libraries are the same, just like all communities are not the same. Public libraries usually tailor their programing to the needs and interests of their patrons. They look at who comes in, for what reason, and try to find programming and materials that fit. This means that materials and programming for Dodge City, Kansas will look different from programming and materials for Astoria, Oregon.

The last few years my small town has seen a booming interest in library programs. The library is offering more programming this year than it did last year. It has probably doubled its programming in the past five years, and people are showing up in droves. Why the change? To begin with, the staff at the library is paying attention and doing their best to come up with programs and materials that draw patrons. With falling circulation numbers and more people utilizing digital devices for books and magazines, it is important to find other ways to reach and support patron interests. However, they can’t do even that if the community doesn’t provide feedback, show interest, and show up for the programs that are offered.

This week’s posts are going to be an overview of the programs offered at our library. Most of my readers are not from my community, but I want share our programming (for a community of just over 2,000) for a couple of reasons. First, it’s to show you the types of programs that libraries can offer. We are a small community, larger libraries can offer more opportunities and resources, and do. Also, I want to encourage you to go to your own library and see what they are offering. Often libraries don’t offer programs because no one has shown any interest. Show interest. Tell them what you would be willing to attend. There are some great enrichment opportunities to be had for your children, and you.

Children’s Programming

When I had my first baby four years ago I was completely cut off socially for the first several months. Which was fine with me. I do pretty well on my own. However, once Ben started becoming more active and showing interest in the things around him I realized that I should probably start showering everyday again, and get him out around other people. It isn’t healthy to be antisocial as a toddler.

The first program I attended at the library was Baby and Me. It was for moms with babies from birth to about 18 months. I met other mothers and we were able to get out of the house, talk, and play with our kids. It started because some of the young mothers talked to the librarian and asked her to offer something for moms with babies. So, the librarian started contacting other young moms in the community and the group was born. It was a good thing. This program has since been cancelled in favor of higher demand programming. However, this is what got me, and many others, out of the house and in the library door.

This is what the library offers now:

  • Learn & Play is a grant based program offered in many communities and isn’t always affiliated with the library. This program is offered twice a month, once on a Monday evening, and once on a Saturday morning. They also host pool parties, picnics, trips to the zoo, and other events. This program is for families with children from birth to 5. Parents attend with their children, and there are stories read, songs sung, and learning and enrichment activities. Parents and kids work together on craft projects. They learn about letters, numbers, sounds, textures, and great ways to play together. The goal of this program is to help parents learn, and get ideas, of ways to play with their children to enrich their learning and development. It is also a great way to meet parents with children of similar ages and to connect with them over this common stage in life.
  • Story Hour – Most libraries do offer a story hour, but I know from experience that not all story hours are created equal. At our story hour, a parent or childcare provider attends with the children. Many of our local daycare providers bring their charges, along with some stay-at-home moms and grandparents. Our story hours are well attended, and this program is offered twice a week. You only attend one, because the program is the same both days. When you arrive there is usually an opening activity that you can do while waiting for story hour to start. Often it is a coloring page or puzzles. They begin with singing songs selected by the kids. They raise their hands to be called on for suggestions. Then there is a hand puppet rhyme, or activity, followed by a story. After that is a craft, followed by a snack. Story hour ends with another story and singing the Goodbye song. The hour is usually centered around a theme (season, animal, etc) or Letter. So, you can talk about what you learned on the way home.
  • Math-4-U – Offered once a week, this program is for 3 year-olds to pre-K. This is a popular program because you drop your child off and pick them up at the end of the hour. Volunteers from the community, some are private people, others are sent from their places of work, come to help with this program. Children gather together at the beginning and start with a group activity. Afterward, they are separated into small groups and move around to centers, manned by the volunteers, at timed intervals. The activities are usually centered around a number, and there are different activities dealing with this number at each center. They color, play games, read a story, and do worksheets. Once in a while, they do a craft as well.
  • Ben with his summer reading sign last year.

    Ben with his summer reading sign last year.

    Summer Programming – All of the programs listed above (except for Learn & Play) are offered during the school year, but shut down over the summer. Summer programming is a little different. The state library often sponsors a summer reading program and theme that our library participates in. Last year the theme was Dig into Reading. This year the theme is Fizz, Boom, Read! and it is a science based theme. Our library hands out a summer reading schedule, usually at the end of April or the beginning of May. There is a kick-off party at the local park, then there are story hours, Friday activity/crafts, movie days, game days, and many other events. Often they are divided up by age group, so the tweens have different activities to attend than grade schoolers. However, there are plenty of events going on through the summer to keep the kids reading and occupied. Of course, you also keep track of the books you read and can earn prizes depending on how many you get through.

  • 1000 Books Before Kindergarten – This program is not something you attend, but rather something you can choose to do. You register your child with the librarian and you receive a card with 100 squares on it. Each time you read a library book with your child you can cross off a square. Yes, it is perfectly fine to count repetitive reads, after all repetition is an important part of learning and literacy for children. Once you fill all 100 of them, you take it in to the library. Your child gets his picture taken and receives the 200 card. This continues until 1000 books have been read. At the end you get a certificate and a prize. This is an effort to encourage you to read out loud to your children at home. Studies show that this strengthens language and vocabulary skills.

I would love the hear from others about the children’s programming offered in your community, especially those of you who live in other countries. Drop me a comment and tell me what you do or don’t have. Do you have different programs? Would it be something we might be interested in getting started in our community?