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Public Libraries: A Hub for Early Childhood Development

Posted on: March 7th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

February is National Library Lovers Month. And if you’re like me, you love libraries. Like a lot.

Some of our first family outings centered around our local library.

When I moved to York, over 20 years ago, my husband and I had two young children, aged 3 and 5. Before transitioning to a new city and role, we had a weekly habit of attending storytimes at our library, and we continued that routine even after we moved. 

The children quickly developed relationships with the librarians and created their own nicknames for the branches we would visit regularly. 

Kreutz Creek was the “little library” and Martin was the “big library.” 

There we were able to devour more books than is possible for one family to purchase. And without all the clutter of owning a ton of books! 

“Going to the library was the one place we got to go without asking for permission. And they let us choose what we wanted to read. It was a feeling of having a book be mine entirely.”

– Rita Dove

The kids participated in the summer reading program and were proud when their diligence resulted in being recognized as “top readers.” 

The library was a safe, fun, inviting place to explore and learn more about their interests. It was a great way to acclimate to a new community and culture. And make lifelong friends.

A special memory I have tucked away was attending Martin Library’s official opening of its new children’s library area. The kids loved the readily accessible bins and shelves that made browsing for books really easy. It was also fun to see the families snuggling up in the corners of the “little house” reading good books. 

If you’ve never been, it’s a must-see centerpiece in downtown York, Pennsylvania. An absolute gem. And it’s recently been revised again.  And the “little library”– Kreutz Creek has a new building and is wonderful!

Libraries are an important hub in local communities.

Look, you probably know libraries serve children, families, and individuals of any age and income level. They support—and develop—an interest in reading, learning, and growing. 

But did you know libraries are a holding place for ideas and innovation? They are a safe place to explore new ideas and refine existing ones. 

For decades libraries have existed to enrich the lives of children and have been a go-to for parents and guardians seeking learning adventures, especially when public and private schools close for holidays, weekends, and summer break.

Libraries have adapted over time and now offer a variety of services including assistance to job seekers, persons working to upskill with online courses, individuals looking to brush up on a new topic, and even community forums. They also serve as social centers, with events for children and adults, STEAM programs, and book clubs.

“Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open.”

– Laura Bush

Libraries are public spaces valued and used by individuals and organizations, day shelters for at-risk populations, and points of access to computers and high-speed Wi-Fi internet for the one in five Americans without residential Wi-Fi or smartphone access.[1] 

Access to knowledge and technology is at the center of economic prosperity. And libraries are providing that to everyone. And they continue to evolve, with in-person offerings, materials, services, and technology. 

As with all industry, the pandemic forced the library to shift to better meet the needs of their members. And they adapted. Many created book bundles, hosted virtual programming and offered grab n’ go crafts. And they continue to develop a diverse collection of materials. 

How do libraries and early childhood programs work together? 

Libraries do many things to support the early literacy curriculum of early childhood education programs here in central Pennsylvania.

Each year they sponsor the One Book Every Young Child program, which brings local authors to the area, provides toolkits and suggestions for incorporating books into all aspects of an early childhood program and provides professional development sessions for early childhood educators.  

Over the years, nearly 20 toolkits have been developed and are available to programs to “check out” and implement with their children and families. 

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” 

– Jacqueline Kennedy

In downtown York, Martin Library has partnered with early intervention services to develop and implement sensory story time programming which targets families of children with special needs, but also welcomes typically developing children as well.

Community outreach is key. Libraries offer storytimes, field trips, STEAM programming, and partner with schools, businesses, and local events to sign children up for library cards. Martin Library supports the School District of the City of York through staffing its literacy and math intervention programs. And provides the librarian for the York Academy Regional Charter School.

Often librarians give of their time, serving on a variety of local early childhood education boards and committees to promote collaboration and ensure that all children have access to books. 

They have initiated the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program to promote early literacy and the connection between reading to your children, starting in infancy, and the child’s success in school. The project also helps close the gap between families who can afford to have books in their homes and have time to read to their children and those that do not.

Libraries play a critical role in developing readers and thinkers. 

Did you know that library services are free to you, the patron? 

They are an essential community partner and strongly support early childhood education. People who grow up seeking out information are people who will be the innovators and leaders of tomorrow.

And library use remains high. 

In 2018, patrons checked out over 2 billion items, including 750 million library items for children, and 80 million patrons attended children’s programs. Based on a 2019 Gallup survey, visiting the public library is the most common cultural activity in America.[1]

So, if you’re in early childhood education or you have children in your life, stop by your local library and say thank you to the librarians. And remember, they help all individuals through their entire lifespans.

If you’re new to the library scene or have recently moved, check out this really cool tool to help you find the nearest public library.

A few things you could do to start building a relationship with your library:

  • Sign up to get a free library card. And get one for your child, too.
  • Follow your local library on social media.
  • Reserve a book online. Many have contactless pickup and will text you when your book is ready.
  • Visit a library you’ve never been to with your kids or grandkids.
  • Schedule a playdate at your local library.
  • Check out their upcoming calendar of events. Chances are good there’s a book club, summer program, or fundraiser that may interest you.
  • Volunteer your time.

With all the good that libraries do in the world, let’s join together to acknowledge the value of public libraries and the smart, caring people who keep them going strong.



Resources

[1] Public libraries continue to adapt, enriching communities across America 


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.