The Power of Library Stories

A Las Vegas mom shares her own adventure about how storytime changed everything for her and her son.

My toddler son and I are library hoppers.  Meaning we are at one library or another almost every day of the week. We didn’t start this way, however. At first, I erroneously believed that library storytimes were not for us.

Picture this: My son, at fifteen months, and I sit at the back of baby storytime, our first attempt. He’s thrilled, and as the story begins he becomes too excited to hold still. He weaves in and out of patrons sitting crisscross applesauce, while I attempt to grab him. “Sit!” I whisper. We leave part way through, and we don’t go back for months.

When I decide we should try again, we start at a small branch, Enterprise Library. Still, we barely make it through baby storytime, and afterwards, I approach the librarian, Ms. Gwen, to ask her advice. “I want my son to be able to participate, but trying to keep him focused and still seems impossible.”

Her kind answer takes me by surprise. She tells me he isn’t expected to hold still. She recommends Mr. Larry’s Toddler Storytime, and assures me that he works magic with the two-year-olds. So the next week I work up my courage and take my son to the library for storytime, once again.

“Well hello children!” Mr. Larry begins, and his voice rises and falls animatedly. His manner could rival Mr. Rogers for his connection with the toddlers.  His storytime is fast-paced, moving from singing, to finger plays, to stories, to bubbles so quickly that my son doesn’t have time to become distracted. He is mesmerized with Mr. Larry, and I know we have found our home.

“At storytimes and other library programs for babies, toddlers, and young children, the librarians aim to create an environment where everybody can learn and build a sense of community for parents and children.”

My sense then was that the library was both fun and beneficial to my son’s growing mind. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with the Youth Services Manager for LVCC Library District and several of the librarians.  This helped me to understand what the library really offers our babies and toddlers here in Las Vegas. This is what I found:

Shana Harrington, Youth Services Manager for LVCCLD explains, “There is a focus on early education at all library storytimes, which are intended for children ages 0-5 with specific storytimes for each age range. At storytimes and other library programs, the librarians aim to create an environment where everybody can learn and build a sense of community for parents and children.”

Parents can expect to learn songs and activities they can do at home. Gloria Jertberg, Youth Services Manager at Summerlin Library says, “Our main goal is to enrich the experiences of our youngest visitors and to encourage parents to bring these skills home and interact with their child through talking, reading, singing, and playing on a daily basis.”

The Library is for Kids of All Ages

The first age range is 0-18 months, and is called Baby Storytime. “Baby Storytime is all about the beginning of brain development, “ says Shana. “There’s communication, play, and developing a sense of self and the world around them.” She adds, babies might not understand everything that is presented at storytime, “but the talking and singing are crucial for developing early language skills. Parents are the infant’s first and best models, and Baby Storytime provides a time and a structure in which parents can interact with them in a way that will cultivate these skills.”

Likewise, Toddler Storytime, for ages 18 months-3 years, also focuses on brain development. It “instills key pre-literacy skills within young minds,” says Gloria. “This might include recognizing shapes, letters, and sounds, which are skills that help to build a great foundation for when children start learning how to read.” Cheryl B. Krantiz-Dykes, Youth Services Department Head at Enterprise Library adds, “We follow the five Early Literacy Practices of: Reading, Writing, Talking, Singing, and Playing, which all work together to help children to have the background necessary to learn to read.”

Have a Good Time

There is much focus on the developing brain during library storytimes and other programs. One of the main purposes is to provide a chance for caregivers and their little ones to have a good time. In fact, Cheryl says, “The number one rule of storytime is to have fun.”  At the same time, there are some goals parents and caregivers can work to achieve at storytime and the other programs offered by LVCCLD.

For parents and caregivers who have either infants or toddlers, developing communication skills is one possible goal. “Baby sign language is incorporated into many storytimes, and can help parents and little ones to foster communication early on,” says Shana. Further, “We give examples of when and how to talk with your child,” says Cheryl, “You can talk with your child at anytime about anything. It is just important to talk with them and give them a chance to take part in the conversation. Even cooing is a form of communication. Taking time to talk with your child helps them build their vocabulary.”

Social Interaction

Another goal is that of social interaction and community building. “Parents sit and talk to each other before and after storytime,” Shana says. “This helps to model great behavior, showing how people interact.”

Moreover, it gives “parents and caregivers a chance to get out of the house and meet with other grown-ups,” says Valerie Warren, Youth Services Department Head at Sahara West Library. “I’ve heard parents share pediatrician recommendations, tips for getting baby to sleep, age-appropriate foods for children, things to do with kids in the neighboring community, and much more.”

Nevada Pre-K Standards

For parents and caregivers concerned about what and how to teach their little ones, all baby and toddler library programs, such as storytime, meet Nevada pre-k standards. Songs and activities are provided to parents to repeat at home. Valerie says, “Repetition plays such a large part in a young child’s learning process. As your family comes back week after week, your little one will: make positive associations with the library, reading, and the library staff; increase their vocabulary through finger-plays, songs, and books; build motor skills as they shake shakers, scarves, and bells; see how to handle books and turn pages; recognize patterns and shapes; hear the sounds and rhythm of words, parts of words, and letters through songs and finger-plays; and learn how to tell stories.” This repetition “will lay the basis of groundwork for literacy,” says Shana.

For those worried that their little one might not make it through a storytime or library program, don’t worry. “Sometimes it takes a few tries for little ones to become comfortable with storytime, and that’s okay!” says Gloria. “We know that children have bad days, so if little ones get fussy in storytime, then feel free to leave the room and come back later, or try again another day.” Shana adds, “We offer so many programs at all branches, so parents should not restrict themselves geographically.” Each storytime and program is different, so try them all and find your favorites. LVCCLD has a storytime for everyone.

Storytimes

To find storytimes and other programs to attend, visit bit.ly/LVCCLDyouthcalendars


Written By: Jannifer Heiner

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