2013-10-17 / Editorial

Library Links

Children and libraries, a joyous combination

Once upon a time, I was a children’s librarian. It was a job I held – and loved – for many years. But then the opportunity to lead Dyer Library and Saco Museum presented itself and what an opportunity it was, to spend so much time in two of my very favorite places. It has been more than seven years since I arrived here, and sometimes, after so much time has passed, I forget about the joys that being a children’s librarian held for me.

Yesterday, all three of the daytime children’s staff went off to a wonderful conference on children’s literacy and I got to staff the children’s room. What fun. Not only did I get to enjoy visits with many small library patrons, but it was also an opportunity to interact with some of their caregivers.

Let me tell you about what goes on in the children’s room. Twice that day classes came from a nearby elementary school to enjoy a story and for each student to pick out a book to bring back to the classroom, and then home. When I read them the story, it brought back to me the absolute thrill of seeing a whole group of quietly – but ever so contentedly – engaged kids sharing a literary experience. Although several of the children also visit the library with their parents, many others only have the opportunity to come with their classes. All of the children are having the unique experience of “shopping” the picture book collection for exactly what appeals to them. It’s a unique kind of experience when you stop to consider it: how many choices do kindergartners or second-graders really get to have in their lives? The book selection experience is free and very satisfying for little kids.

Later in the day, a caregiver came in with a couple of his young adult charges. They selected picture books, got comfortable on the couch and enjoyed a story or two together. True, they are a little older than many of the children’s room customers, but are savoring the experience, just the same. It’s a need that we are meeting, but one that you may not have thought about before.

After school, business really picks up. Since the library sits right in the front yard of C. K. Burns School, we are the after-school destination of choice for a good-sized group of students who come in to use the computers, spend lots of time searching the shelves for the perfect book, and, truth be told, interacting with their circle of friends in a comfortable and safe environment. They have already grown to recognize that the library represents a friendly community center.

Studies have shown that children who visit the library frequently grow up to be better readers and better citizens. When the children’s librarians read a book to a class, present a program to a gathering of toddlers, help a student find a book for a report, oversee a slightly silly gathering of middle-schoolers or help a child use the computer, they are investing in our future, one act and one child at a time. But what a worthwhile investment. Oh, joy.

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum on Main Street in Saco.

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