Q. Why are story times important?
When young children spend time with their families talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing together, it’s not just fun. It’s also helping children build essential skills they need in order to be ready to read when they enter school.
When library staff members present story times, they are not only sharing lively songs, reading books full of rich language, and providing hands-on exploration of materials. They are simultaneously modeling for parents and caregivers how to help build a child’s vocabulary, how to connect stories to a child’s own experience, and how to strengthen a child’s understanding and love of literature.
A baby chewing on a board book is demonstrating an appreciation for books. A toddler who bursts into song at home in the kitchen, after hearing that same song at story time every week, is showing their understanding of how the sounds in words work. A preschooler who can make shapes with their fingers while they sing a rhyme is exercising the small motor skills they will need in order to write the alphabet.
Q. Could you give some examples of children who have benefited from story times?
Every morning that there is a story time, we can see the endless benefits that story times provide. We see friends gathering together in a relaxed community space, and children who are not only building early literacy skills, but also social emotional skills as they make new friends and share a sense of wonder.
Q. So story times help kids learn to read, but what about the rest of the children's programs? Why does the library need them? Can't families find programs like that on their own?
When we plan programs for kids and families at the library, we aim to support patrons to be able to express their creativity by offering arts programs and to read for pleasure through our many book clubs. We consider how to help create a more walkable, interconnected community, by planning active programs and opportunities to get outside. But most importantly, we ask ourselves: would this program be fun? When a program is fun for us to plan, and exciting for kids to join in, then families will continue to gather at the library and the more time they spend here, the more useful we can be by providing vital information, offering intriguing events and being a vibrant part of the community.
Q. About what percent of children who begin story times when they are babies or toddlers continue to come to them until they are 6?
Over time, we’ve seen many families grow. The tiniest infant coming to Book Babies grows into the older, sophisticated Family Story Time helper as new siblings arrive and join the crew.
Q. Do you have more demand for story times than you can meet? If so, about how many children do you have to turn away?
Story times at the library are so well loved that sometimes we have a hard time squeezing everyone in. We do what we can to encourage families to come on time, or to wait for a second session if the first one fills up. Even so, our hardest job is turning away disappointed families, which we must do at least a few times a week.
Q. What would the consequences be if some story times were eliminated?
It’s hard to imagine letting go of a single story time session. However, if the library needed to pare down story times, we would lose the ability to support many families in the community. With fewer story times, we would serve fewer families. We might also lose the ability to offer story times on the weekends, the only time when some working families are able to attend.