[Well, I was wrong. Back at the end of September, 1991, I directed all branch managers to commence immediate, 7-day-a-week story times for children. It was a good idea, and their staff (and volunteers) came up with many magnificent programs. But the results were incontrovertible: nobody wants to bring their children to weekend story times. So I'm canceling them.
On the other hand, generally speaking, the Monday through Friday story times have been very well attended. We'll keep those going.
We have had one slow week day at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock -- our Wednesday story time for very young children. Carol Foreman, one of our librarians, is the story teller on that day, and it would be hard to imagine a more vivacious and experienced leader.
So why have children (and their parents) stayed away? Mainly, I think, because they feel either that their children are too young to "get" anything out of it, or that their children aren't quiet enough -- that they might be causing a "disturbance."
Let me state this as directly as possible: first, you can't get your kids around books soon enough. No age is too young. Second, we do not expect children under two-and-a-half to be quiet. It's not natural. But being in a library IS.
The way I see it, going to the library isn't a reward or a special privilege for the unusually mature. It is, or ought to be, both the playground and raw material for every child's fantasy life. We WANT them to come. That's why we have story times for young children, and that's why we hire librarians who like working with them.
Over the next couple of months, we're going to develop an outreach program to Castle Rock area daycares -- a shameless attempt on our part to recruit children at the earliest possible age by encouraging them to develop a taste for good books.
At any rate, this week's column is by Carol Foreman. I think you'll get a better understanding of what we're trying to do with our story times, and what kind of people you can count on finding at all our libraries.]
As I was thinking about this article and what I might say, my young daughters, Jessica and Storie, interrupted me with their play. They were pretending to be in a movie theater and needed me to do something for them.
Pretending and playing: I bet my daughters spend at least 75 percent of the day in these activities. To an adult, this can sometimes be boring and often tiring, but to a child it is mind-expanding and exhilarating.
Where, I often wonder, do my children get their material for all this fantasy? Sometimes, I hear them repeating lines from favorite movies or television programs, and sometimes they pretend to be a favorite animal. But regardless of what they pretend, I see the influence of books behind their play.
Like many of you, I have read to my children from the time they were born. Of course, they haven't always understood me, let alone sat still, but over time, I've seen a change in my children.
Jessica (my almost 6 year old) became so engrossed in "Little House in the Big Woods" that one day she was pretending to be Laura taking Charlotte shopping at the little store in town.
Lately, however, it is with Storie, my almost two year old, where I see the profound and lasting influence of reading. Her vocabulary has doubled -- mind you in a two year old that's still not a lot of words. She listens while we talk to her and actually sits still for a GOOD book. Most importantly, she often takes down a book by herself (usually in her crib) and "reads."
As parents, we all want our children to be good readers because that one skill often predicts "success" in school and learning. But reading also encourages imagination and play -- it's the grist for the mill of childhood.
The Douglas Public Library District (all branches) offers to parents a wonderful opportunity to bring their little ones (ages 1-1/2 - 2/12) to the library -- for free -- for a very special story hour every week. These programs help parents learn what they can do to set their toddler on the road to reading, singing, talking, listening, playing, and the world of imagination, and how to share books with their children.
I've listed the schedules for all branches below. We hope to see you -- and your children! -- at the library soon.